The Legal Aid Society has secured the release of Reginald “Reggie” Randolph, a client who was serving a disproportional 2–4-year prison sentence for a non-violent charge where he stole NyQuil from Duane Reade, as reported by The Appeal.
Mr. Randolph is free pending an appeal of his case and has been accepted into a supportive housing program that will be able to meet his physical and mental health needs.
Reggie’s case is a tragic example of New York’s criminalization of mental illness, substance use disorders, and poverty. Mr. Randolph, who was chronically homeless at the time of his arrest, suffers from a range of serious mental and physical health issues, as well as substance use challenges. The trauma of Reggie’s incarceration was significantly compounded by his almost total blindness where he would vulnerably traverse the prison walls with his hands in front of him to avoid falling or injury.
While Reggie being released from custody is a victory, cases like his are not unique. Roughly half of the current population of New York City jails have a mental health diagnosis and are recommended to receive mental health services. Yet few receive adequate treatment, which has resulted in a surge in self-harm, suicides, and overdoses in recent months.
Advocates are pushing the Governor to sign the Treatment Not Jail Act, which 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.
Last Updated: 25 January 2022
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