Search Engine Blog Blog Search Engine Yahoo Verification Oklahoma Criminal Defense: Tulsa Expands Mental Health Court to Accept Criminal Defendants

Tulsa Expands Mental Health Court to Accept Criminal Defendants

Oklahoma is considered a national leader in this area.

The specialized court will focus on people whose "criminal behavior is a by product of the mental illness," District Judge Rebecca Nightingale said.

A docket is projected to start in January or February on a one-day-a-week basis, with funding resources available to handle 50 people at this time, officials said.

Special District Judge Kirsten Pace is expected to handle the docket.

"There are far in excess of 50 people who qualify and have a need," said Nightingale, who will supervise the court's progress for the district judges. The intent is to divert nonviolent offenders with significant mental ailments into treatment programs in the community, rather than keep them locked up in jail.

Tulsa County officials are screening referrals for the new Mental Health Court, which is designed to deal with nonviolent but mentally ill criminal defendants.

The initial docket is set for June 4, with Special District Judge Kirsten Pace presiding.

"I am very optimistic about it," she said. "I hope the community can also be excited."
The goal is to address the needs of people who are "getting into trouble" and having encounters with the criminal justice system because of their mental illnesses, Pace said.

Oklahoma has the highest rate of serious mental illness among adults in the nation, according to a 2003 federal report.

"I do not think we are going to want for people for the Mental Health Court," Assistant Public Defender Marny Hill said.

District Attorney Tim Harris agreed that "there will be no shortage of candidates."

The docket is projected to start on a one-day-a-week basis, likely with a small number of participants. Enough state funds have been provided that officials project an eventual caseload of 50 people. The goal is to treat these offenders in the community, rather than lock them up. The approach should help people get the care, medication and treatment they need to function in society and make them "less of a burden on our court system," Hill said.

Participation is on a voluntary basis, and treatment programs will be individualized, Pace said.
Defendants must be diagnosed with a serious mental illness, but they also must be mentally competent for court purposes. Charges involving certain violent crimes will be grounds for automatic exclusion, officials say.

Participating defendants will be represented by attorneys to safeguard their rights, but "you can’t maintain your innocence," said District Judge Rebecca Nightingale, who has been active in the court’s development.

Mental Health Court is not set up "to try the cases," she said.

A defendant could have a case dismissed upon successful completion of a treatment program, but "there will be a consequence for failure to cooperate," Nightingale said.

A key component of Mental Health Court is to ensure that participants take their medication, and "jail will be a last-resort sanction" for noncompliance because of the difficulty of providing specific medication to a person in jail, Nightingale said.

As planned, defendants will appear before Pace regularly and will face requirements involving counseling, curfews, medication and supervision.

"Our success will depend a lot on the availability of services in the community," she said. "We are fortunate to have good community health resources."

Tulsa County prosecutors will have "gatekeeper" authority over an offender’s participation in the therapeutic court, First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said.

"With this kind of court, it is going to be hard to have a lot of black-and-white rules," he said. "We need to help the people that really need help."

The local court system regularly handles civil proceedings related to involuntary mental health commitments, but previously there has been no therapeutic court approach to criminal defendants with mental illnesses.

8 comments:

sabina said...

Tulsa County court officials are developing a Mental Health Court to address the treatment and supervision needs of mentally ill criminal defendants.Mental Health Court is one of a few mental health courts across the country helping people with drug problems.
===================
sabina

Dual Diagnosis
Dual Diagnosis

Surshani said...

Sri Lanka

Sithara said...

The mental health of Oklahoma seems to be good at the moment,But,the situations of Criminal Defendants has been busy with the behaviour of the mental illnesses.

.............
Sithara

Addiction Recovery Oklahoma

CallMeCrazy2 said...

A Mental Health Court for Tulsa has been too slow in coming. This coupled with the lacking community programs for the serious mentally ill is truly a crime in and of itself. The exclusion of felony cases is just one point that Tulsa is not truly serious about running a competent, state of the art MHC. And I see from experience that mental health court and drug court are run too closely together when each has a separate set of issues. Tulsa courts will divert a person with dual diagnosis through drug court at a much higher rate than they would through MH court

There are proven, successful models for this court program, Tulsa does not need to remake something unique. And considering that Tulsa is far behind the rest of our country in this field it would be highly advisable to work from the model of an existing, proven program and to set some serious goals for a scaled improvement.

Anonymous said...

Tulsa is seriously behind in the implementation of a Mental Health Court system. And equally lacking are the community resources available to mental health consumers. Tulsa does not need to reinvent the system they need to model after the successfully courts that have been practicing MH law for some time and have proven track records.
Excluding felony crimes from MHC is a disturbing decision. And the system tends to run dual diagnosed people through drug court more often that MHC.
Tulsa could definitely benefit from an infusion of grant money but until the community programs are in place it wouldn't be of much use.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Graham has posted information about Tulsa Mental Health court and the forms and the application to Tulsa Mental Health Court, Tulsa Drug Court, Accelerated Accountability Procedure and others on his web site at http://www.glenrgraham.com/id63.html

Arlene said...

My understanding of Mental Health Court from the OBA website is it is used for alternative sentencing.
I think the concept of Mental Health Court as an alternative to Jail or Prison is an excellant idea. Defendants should not be referred to it by Judges or DA's to usurp due process as it seems to being done by DA's and some Judges in Tulsa County.

Some Judges and DA in appear to be referring Defendants to Mental Health Court to usurp the most vulnerable person’s right to due process, the right to be free from excessive bail, and the right to know the evidence the DA has against the accused.

Cases are being referred prior to the end of Discovery so the DA will not have to produce any evidence to prove the accused was even remotely guilty. How can you sentence someone prior to even having to show the evidence? The Mentally ill that have been falsely accused are having their rights violated by being asked to enter a no contest plea to a crime they did not commit, or remain in jail with excessie bail. This is coercion, by Judges and DA's especailly when there is no risk to the community or of the Mentally Ill not showing up in court and the defendant has no previous felony convictions or violent crime convictions. This is being done regularly by some overly agressive Judges and DA's.

Certain Judges and DA's are doing this even when they know the defendant was arrested by Police Officers that are under investigation by the Grand Jury for corruption. This makes them look like they are protecting those officers.

The USE of excessive bail as punishment to force innocent Mentally Ill defendants to enter plea bargains to obtain false no contest pleas is a violation of the 8th amendment. Some Judges in Tulsa totally ignore the AG opinions on the purpose of Bail and excessive bail.

Criminal Attorneys in OKLAHOMA should be doing everything possible to stop these civil rights violations by overly aggressive Judges and DA's.

It should not be only the Rich Mentally Ill or wealthly "normal" persons that have a right to Justice in the Oklahoma and US. If we continue to do this we are truly a third world country, and with the number of Oklahomans in Prison especially the Mentally Ill it appears we are pretty close to that.



This is IGNORANCE and predjudice by the Courts.

Arlene said...

My understanding of Mental Health Court from the OBA website is it is used for alternative sentencing. I think the concept of Mental Health Court as an alternative to Jail or Prison is an excellent idea, but it should not be used to usurp due process can coerce innocent people the court have indiscriminately decided are guilty without evidence solely because they are mentally ill.


Some Judges and District Attorneys in Tulsa County are using Mental Health Court to usurp the most vulnerable person’s right to due process, the right to be free from excessive bail, and the right to know the evidence the DA has against the accused.

Cases are being referred prior to the end of Discovery so the DA will not have to produce any evidence to prove the accused was even remotely guilty. How can you sentence someone prior to even having to show the evidence? The mentally ill that have been falsely accused are having their rights violated by being asked to enter a no contest plea to a crime they did not commit, or remain in jail with excessive bail. This is as a coercion especially when there is no risk to the community or of the Mentally Ill not showing up in court and the defendant has not previous felony convictions or violent crime convictions. This is being done regularly by some overly aggressive Judges and DA's.

Certain Judges and DA's are doing this even when they know the defendant was arrested by Police Officers that are under investigation by the Grand Jury for corruption. This makes them look like they are protecting those officers.

The USE of excessive bail as punishment to force innocent Mentally Ill defendants to enter plea bargains to obtain false no contest pleas is a violation of the 8th amendment. Some Judges in Tulsa totally ignore the AG opinions on the purpose of Bail and excessive bail.

Criminal Attorneys in OKLAHOMA should be doing everything possible to stop these civil rights violations by overly aggressive Judges and DA's.

It should not be only the Rich Mentally Ill that has a right to Justice in the Oklahoma and US. If we continue to do this we are truly a third world country, and with the number of Oklahomans in Prison especially the Mentally Ill it appears we are pretty close to that.

This is IGNORANCE and prejudice by the Courts.