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Task force calls for sweeping criminal justice reforms, better mental health treatment, less incarceration

A task force of attorneys and state officials is making progress on a collaborative effort to advance lasting reforms in the state’s criminal justice system.

Their work stems the 2015 Trueblood v. DSHS ruling ordering Washington State to fix a broken system that unconstitutionally denies mentally ill inmates access to timely evaluations of their competency to stand trial.

The Trueblood Task Force is urging the state to go upstream with reforms that focus on improving access to behavioral health services so that fewer people with mental illness wind up in jail.

“We need to give people enough support in the community, in non-coercive, non-secured environments, so they can be stabilized without needing to be incarcerated,” says Chris Carney, managing partner at Carney Gillespie Isitt and a member of the task force. “We’re trying to create that fork in the road as far back as possible.”

The task force is calling for statewide investments in a host of reforms, including crisis intervention services; intensive case managers to assure that inmates are evaluated for mental illness and placed in the least restrictive setting; and more comprehensive behavioral health crisis training for law enforcement and corrections officers.

Read more about the task force’s recommendations

Related news coverage

Judge fines Washington state $185K for delays in serving mentally ill defendants, AP/Oregonian

Editorial: Washington’s whack-a-mole approach to mental health isn’t working, The Seattle Times

Judge: Washington in contempt for mental health case
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Deadline upheld to aid mentally ill inmates, The Associated Press

Editorial: State must rise to federal judge’s rebuke of mental health system, Seattle Times

Choice of private firm to treat defendants draws questions
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Lawyers’ work on behalf of jailed mentally ill clients lauded
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