Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Marana Municipal Court, Jared Lee Loughner and Diversion

Reports indicate that Jared Loughner's case in Marana Municipal Court was resolved through a diversion program. There's no link on the Court's official website about diversion, but it is just northwest of Tucson, and the city of Tucson's site has more about their own diversion program: Tucson Diversion Program.

In my last post about Loughner, I mentioned a concern that drug court diversion programs here in New York focus on substance abuse and may fail to address larger mental health concerns. For the Tucson program at least, this might be true. From that site:

"Participants cited with substance abuse charges attend substance abuse counseling."

And reinforcing that:

"You will be evaluated for the need and type of counseling appropriate to your offense."

In the mental health community, counseling is chosen appropriate to your mental health needs. In the so-called criminal justice system, counseling is chosen appropriate to the offense.

How about this quote:

"Treatment or education to deter offenders from committing further criminal acts."

Since when is treatment or counseling designed to deter?

I also like this quote:

"The Prosecutor’s Office determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis."

Because prosecutors, you see, are the most qualified to determine who needs mental health treatment. Okay, sarcasm off.

I have to give credit to the New York State Legislature for our new Judicial Diversion statute (Article 216 of the CPL). They took that power away from prosecutors and required a mental health evaluation upon request from the defense. In New York, "Drug Court" is available only on the prosecutor's consent. But a judge can order diversion over the prosecutor's objection.

Hopefully, the fact that Loughner's diversion failed to address his obvious mental health problems will lead these programs, and our courts, to a broader focus.

Update: A writer on Huffington Post also mentioned diversion about Loughner and the Columbine shooters.


Bubbe said...

Change is certainly needed in this area and hope it will happen.

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