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LAS Calls on Albany to Pass Treatment Not Jail Act

Jeffrey Berman, an attorney at The Legal Aid Society who specializes in mental health issues, recently appeared on WBAI’s On The Count program to discuss the pending Treatment Not Jail act.

The groundbreaking legislation will ensure that New Yorkers with substance use challenges, mental health concerns, and other disabilities have an off-ramp from the criminal legal system to obtain robust treatment and support in their communities rather than jail. The new law will ensure that New Yorkers with substance use challenges, mental health concerns, and other disabilities have an off-ramp from the criminal legal system to obtain treatment and support in their communities rather than jail.

Berman explained that currently, the option of judicial diversion – which allows individuals to seek treatment rather than jail – is extremely limited. The proposed law will expand eligibility beyond substance dependence. It will also allow the option to be considered for a much wider range of charges. Another powerful aspect of the bill is that it will not require people to plead guilty in order to be removed from the system.

The bill represents a pragmatic shift towards a more holistic and harm-reduction-oriented understanding of recovery and requires that treatment court judges and court personnel receive specialized training in the tenants of procedural justice, ensuring all diversion participants are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

“Our clients have already been failed by nearly every system in their lives- child welfare, public health, education, and the list goes on,” he said. “We must not fail them at this critical moment in the criminal legal system too.”

Listen to the full segment here.