On October 23, 2003 through a unanimous voice vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S. 1194, the "Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2003", out of Committee and sent it on for consideration by the full Senate. S. 1194 would authorize $100 million for two years for jail diversion, mental health treatment in jails or prisons, discharge planning and community reentry services, or cross-training of criminal justice and mental health personnel. NAMI applauds the Judiciary Committee for its leadership in addressing the tragedy of criminalization and urges both chambers of Congress to move swiftly to enact this important legislation.
S. 1194 was introduced by Senator Mike DeWine (R. Ohio) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D. Vermont), and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators including Senator Orrin Hatch (R. Utah), Senator Maria Cantwell (D. Washington), Senator Charles Grassley (R. Iowa), Senator Richard Durbin (D. Illinois), and Senator Pete Domenici (R. New Mexico). A companion bill, HR 2387, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Ted Strickland (D. Ohio).
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup of S. 1194 is timely, coming on the heels of the release, earlier that week, of a major report by Human Rights Watch, documenting the mistreatment and neglect of large numbers of individuals with serious mental illnesses in prisons across the country. According to this report, Ill Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness, while prisons have emerged as de-facto "psychiatric treatment facilities", these are often the worst environments imaginable for people with these illnesses. S. 1194 attempts to address this problem by establishing alternatives to incarceration and by providing resources to improve treatment for those individuals who are incarcerated. Read NAMI’s press release and find out more about the Human Rights Watch report.
If your Senator is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, please contact him or her to express your appreciation for their support. View a listing of Senate Judiciary Committee members. Otherwise, please contact your Senator to urge his or her support when S. 1194 reaches the floor. Finally, co-sponsors, particularly Republican co-sponsors, are urgently needed in the House. Please contact your Representative and request that he or she cosponsor HR 2387. All Senator and House Members can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-8329-5276.
More information about S. 1194 and HR 2387, including talking points in support of this important legislation can be found in our Enews Archive. Read a copy of testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of S. 1194 by Ron Honberg, NAMI’s Director of Legal Affairs.
Read Senator DeWine's Press Release on Senate Judiciary Committee passage.
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