Reporter Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network wrote an article reporting that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a measure that will soon offer an alternative to prison for people with a serious mental illness who commit a crime.
Under the new law signed Monday by Inslee, judges will have the option to sentence a person to community supervision and treatment in lieu of prison. Washington already offers sentencing alternatives for certain drug offenders and certain sex offenders.
The program — which takes effect July 25 —will be open to individuals who are convicted of a felony crime that is not a serious violent offense or a sex offense. The person would have to be willing to participate in the sentencing alternative, the court would have to determine the individual would benefit from community-based supervision and treatment, and the opinion of the person’s victim would also be considered.
If the person were to violate the conditions of the sentencing alternative, they could be sent to prison to serve their sentence.
My opinion? Excellent idea. Data suggests that people in the criminal justice system are more likely to suffer from mental health problems than the general population. Our sentencing should be sensitive to these problems.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime and mental health is an issue. Substantive defenses such as Diminished Capacity are helpful. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.