Maricopa County Develops Program To Help Felony Offenders With Mental Health Issues

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, August 15, 2019 - 12:22pm
Updated: Thursday, August 15, 2019 - 3:47pm

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Bill Montgomery
Jude Joffe-Block/KJZZ
Bill Montgomery

We often hear that the Maricopa County jail system is the county’s largest mental health facility, full of people who come in and out of the criminal justice system, convicted of minor crimes that are often related to their mental illness.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has worked to cut off that cycle for some offenders before, and now it's launching a new partnership aimed at doing the same for some felony offenders who are designated as "seriously mentally ill."

County Attorney Bill Montgomery has faced criticism for his opposition to attempts at criminal justice reform proposals in the Legislature, but he says this is an attempt to expand some internal programs that have seen some success.

He signed a contract this month with Southwest Behavioral Health Services to try to offer treatment instead of incarceration for some people whose criminal actions were likely influenced by mental illness.

The new partnership is part of the County Attorney’s Office’s Felony Pretrial Intervention Program, which began back in 2015 and has now seen about 1,200 participants. The completion rate for those participants sits at 61%, but, for those who make it through, the program can offer a new start.

The Show recently spoke with Montgomery more about it, and he said he’s seen the way the criminal justice system has worked against some of these people in the past.

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