Mental health court program starts in Gwinnett, Georgia

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judge beyerProps to Superior Court Judge Karen E. Beyers for overseeing a new mental health court in Gwinett, Georgia. A recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes this innovative program that offers an alternative to incarceration to people with mental health issues. It's called an "accountability court" and is offered to those who are willing to get treatment so they can lead a productive life. About 20 accountability courts overall are being started statewide. Recognizing that many people in jail are there because of mental health issues, Gwinnett County is opening a special accountability court for those who are willing to get treatment so they can lead a productive life. Eligibility for the new mental health court in Gwinnett will be limited to adults facing felony charges whose mental illness played a significant role in the crime they committed. Douglas County Superior Court Judge Steve Goss established the first mental health court in Georgia in 2002. About 100 people have graduated. Goss said the program has been good for the community because it breaks the cycle of incarceration.

“There’s a tangible tax benefit and there’s a manpower benefit,” Goss said. “But it’s also a human benefit, because everybody that comes into court is somebody’s brother or sister or father or mother.”

Plenty of opportunity to extrapolate to younger people, Network faithful!

  • Excerpt from the article:
    Mental illness shouldn’t be a life sentence.

    It can be, though, for people whose conditions go untreated and who become stuck in the revolving door of the criminal justice system. Recognizing that many people in jail are there because of mental health issues, Gwinnett County is opening a special accountability court for those who are willing to get treatment so they can lead a productive life.

    The status hearing for the first participant began Thursday before Superior Court Judge Karen E. Beyers, who is in charge of the new mental health court. Fourteen other participants are also awaiting entry to the program, said the mental health court coordinator, Priscilla Daniels.

    Statewide, about 20 accountability courts are dedicated to defendants with mental health problems. These can include juvenile or adult felony courts, adult misdemeanor courts, and hybrid courts that handle both felony drug and mental health defendants. Cobb County is also starting a mental health court under the supervision of Superior Court Judge Mary E. Staley.

    The reason is clear: An estimated 17 percent of local jail inmates are suffering from some mental illness, and half of all state and local correctional detainees who have a mental illness report being convicted three or more times.

  • Continue reading here.

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