Any parent knows what medical science has now shown: The adolescent brain operates differently than that of an adult. The poor choices an adolescent may make does not predict the character of the adult he or she will grow to be.
Currently NY law allows 16 and 17 year old to be charged and tried as adults. This means, among other things: They can be questioned by police without parents being present or even being notified their child is in custody. The 16 or 17 year old will be asked to waive very important rights (“Miranda Rights”) with no parental input, yet they cannot legally sign a contract at this age without a parent co-signing. If bail cannot be made or obtained, the parents have no opportunity to converse at length in a confidential setting with their 16 or 17 year old. The 16 or 17 year old makes the decision to accept a plea bargain or go to trial. If accepting a plea, they are again asked to waive very important rights, rights our justice system is founded on, when our society’s laws do not allow them to enter into any contract outside of the justice system because it recognizes what parents and medical science knows: They do not have the requisite experience, knowledge, maturity or decision making skills to do so.
Restore the age for juveniles to 18.
JUSTICE FOR ALL
Restore parole. Many others have entered detailed comments. I will not repeat them, however, I concur.
Require ALL questioning and confessions of suspects, especially juvenile suspects, to be audio and video taped. This is a protection for all. The police would be protected from false claims (abuse, failure to advise suspect of rights, etc.) Suspects would be protected (police writing different answers than were given by the suspect, or not including in the written statement questions asked when the answers aren’t what they are looking for, and rushing a suspect to sign the statement without reading it before his or her attorney arrives).
Questioning of anyone in the course of an investigation should also be audio taped, at the least, to make sure ALL questions and their answers are included. This should ensure that all information covered is included in the statement signed. I know of at least one case where a minor was interviewed by police, as many who knew the suspect had been. Had his parents not insisted on being present, and had his parents not insisted on reading what the police officer had written, the statement the minor would have signed would not have included questions asked where the answers were favorable to the suspect. As it was, the parents insisted that those questions and answers be included. How many others’ statements contained only what the police chose to include? Justice must be based on the WHOLE TRUTH.
Restore TAP awards for inmates, as they are provided to others. Numerous studies have shown that recidivism rates decline as the level of education attained goes up. For those who just look at the costs, the tuition at a local community college is $1,350 per semester or $5,400 total for the 2 year degree. Even doubling that to account for books, fees and possible increases in costs over the 2 years, that is ONE-THIRD the cost of maintaining a prisoner in a NY prison for a year. For those interested in justice, this serves the “rehabilitation” and “correction” part of incarceration. For those interested in a safer society, this PREVENTS future crime.
Eliminate the high cost of inmate phone calls. Right now they are collect calls. Inmates can only call to certain, pre-approved phone numbers on record, which is fine. This same technology can be utilized in conjunction with a calling card which inmates could purchase through the correctional facility’s commissary (at rates in line with calling card rates on the outside.) Not only would this decrease the cost of the calls, it would also enable the inmate to leave a message on an answering machine if needed. Presently, if an inmate is expecting a visit but isn’t feeling well and wants to let the expected visitor not to come, if the visitor is not at home when the inmate calls, there is no way to leave a message. Result: A visitor may spend all night on a bus ride, or drive hundreds of miles, only to either have a visit with a sick inmate (who is spreading germs throughout the visiting room), or get there and not have a visit, wasting their time, money, and gasoline.
JUSTICE FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM MENTAL ILLNESS
Bar the use of SHU for disciplining those with mental illnesses. Its use exacerbates mental illness. Yet while 11% of NY prisoners are on the mental health caseload, the percentage of those in disciplinary housing on the mental health caseload is 23%. SHU is over used in NY. NY has the largest percentage of inmates (6.7%) in disciplinary housing than any other state (national average: 2.6%)
Institute MENTAL HEALTH COURTS in all counties, for both violent and non-violent offenders.
Please see information on the Nathaniel Project on the GAINS Center website at www.gainscenter.samhsa.gov
Institute an “Involuntary Intoxication” law. Psychotropic medications target the brain and the way one thinks. Unfortunately, just as medications that target other organs or processes of the body sometimes have adverse side effects, so do psychotropic drugs - but they are adversely affecting the thought processes. If a crime is committed by someone under the effects of a prescribed medication, there is nothing in NYS law to provide an affirmative defense as some other states have. Somehow people will believe someone under the influence of an illegal drug may do something they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances, yet are reluctant to believe a prescribed medication could have the same result. Some of today’s illegal drugs used to be legally prescribed by doctors. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are not infallible.
No one asks to suffer from a mental illness. It could happen to anyone. For justice truly to be served, the effects of untreated or incorrectly treated mental illness must be considered.
While doctors are required to give patients and the parents or guardians of minor patients all of the information necessary to make informed consent regarding treatment, studies show that when medications are prescribed, full disclosure of side effects and potential side effects of the medications is only given 20% of the time. Informed consent cannot be given under these circumstances. Relying on what they have been told by the pharmaceutical sales representatives does not absolve doctors of their responsibility to be informed and to inform their patients/parents. Not providing this information deprives the patients and their parents of the requisite knowledge necessary to adequately monitor themselves or children for side effects from the drugs. Especially in the case of psychotropic drugs and minors, this is imperative. Parents have not only the responsibility to oversee their children’s health, they have the right to all information to intelligently do so. Mandate that doctors give patients and parents written information on the side effects of medications. This will ensure that everyone, including the prescribing physician, is aware of all possible side effects. Any psychologist or counselor the patient sees should also be provided this information in writing. (HIPAA documents having been signed.)
In spite of being educated, far too many school personnel are woefully ignorant of mental health issues, especially as they present themselves in adolescents. Compassion for those with mental illness cannot be mandated. However, lack of compassion often arises from a lack of knowledge and understanding of an illness. In some New York City schools, teachers and administrators receive training in both recognition of mental illness in children and in classroom management with those children. Unfortunately, such training is not required statewide.
Suicide rates among our youth are epidemic. Please mandate that all school personnel receive annual training on mental health issues, especially depression
- Submitted by Lorraine Barde on 12.31.06