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What happens to the mentally ill in the criminal justice system?

Published December 08. 2009 05:00PM

Schuylkill County's Interagency Forensic Task Force and the County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) announces a free public education workshop to be presented at the Lehigh Carbon Community College Morgan Center, Lisa Jane Scheller Student Center, located at 234 High Street, Tamaqua, on Dec. 10, from 7-8:30 p.m.

A panel of local experts from the Courts, Criminal Justice System, MH/MR System, and Community will trace the odyssey of the offenders with mental illness as they travel through the Criminal Justice system, and they will describe points along the way where these clients can be diverted from incarceration and provided timely and appropriate treatment services.

David Dinich, President of Family Training and Advocacy Center for Serious Mental Illness (FTAC), will moderate a panel discussion among these professionals and advocates who have special interest and expertise in each of these areas. This year's presenters will include the following:

*Warden Eugene Berdanier, Schuylkill County Prison;

*The Honorable Steven Bayer, Magisterial District Judge, Schuylkill County;

*Detective Dolores Malec, Schuylkill County District Attorney's Office;

*Dan McGrory, Administrator, Schuylkill County MH/MR/D&A Department;

*Michael Stine, Esq., Chief of the Schuylkill County Public Defender's Office;

*Vivian Spiese, NAMI of Schuylkill County;

*Representatives from Local Law Enforcement.

The following are problems that can be confronted by persons with mental illness and their families and the supports they will need at each of the steps in the Criminal Justice System:

*If the clients have encounters with community law enforcement and emergency services;

*If they are arrested and face initial detention and initial hearings;

*If the offenders with mental illness are placed in jails and prisons or in forensic units or hospitals and become inmates or patients;

*When the inmates or patients eventually return to their families and community from jails, prisons, and forensic units;

*After the offenders with mental illness are back in the community maintain their recovery and keep out of trouble.

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