Tag Archives: Mental Health Portland

Mental health and criminal justice: Penny wise and definitely foolish

By Chris O’Connor, Contrbuting Writer

As an attorney working solely in indigent defense, I often see the terrible collision of mental health and the criminal justice system. Some of those in government and policy positions need to come down to the courthouse and see the unfortunate mess that results when the criminal justice system tries to deal with what ultimately is a medical problem.

I think a closer and more personal look at individual cases as examples would help us refocus our efforts on what works and improve results while saving money. The current approach is failing all of the people involved, from victims of real crime to people lost in their mental disorder and disease.

This is not to say that there are not many hardworking, compassionate and smart people working in the various treatment agencies and government offices. It’s just that they don’t get the seemingly limitless budgets and lack of financial accountability given to the police, the district attorney and the jails and prisons or the forensic wards of the state hospital. Spend a few more pennies on the front line workers, counselors, doctors and nurses and you can save many pounds on the criminal justice end. Continue reading