Legal Aid Society


Op-Ed: For the Sake of Public Health and Safety, Pass the Treatment Not Jail Act

The Legal Aid Society’s Jeffrey Berman and New York County Defender Services’ Katherine LeGeros Bajuk make the case for the groundbreaking Treatment Not Jail Act in a new op-ed for City Limits.

The legislation would 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.

By expanding the scope of who is eligible for these treatment alternatives, the bill will have a significant impact on public safety. Jail and prison are now known to increase recidivism, whereas justice-involved treatment courts significantly decrease the risk of re-arrest.

“It is false that people living with mental illness are a risk to public safety,” they write. “In fact, they are 10 times more likely to be the victim and not perpetrator of violence. It is also incorrect that people with violent charges do not equally succeed in community-based treatment as do people charged with non-violent crimes. Indeed, treatment court graduates are 50 percent less likely to recidivate. We must follow the facts and not fear-mongering.”

Read the full piece here.