Criminal justice reform is a hot topic nationwide and in one area county, a new addition to the court system reflects one of the most prevalent emerging trends in our society.
“We see an increase in mental health issues nationwide. So, it’s not surprising you’re seeing it in the legal system.”
Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna discussed a new mental health related component in the county’s judicial system, a behavioral health treatment court.
“A lot of times people come in contact with the legal system, and there may be underlying health issues, but we deal with behavior. If the behavior reaches the level where there are victims, and they’ve suffered crimes of violence, that’s one of the issues you deal with. Our primary purpose is to insure victims are made whole and the defendants are held accountable.”
In an attempt to reach that objective, those in the behavioral health court will be closely monitored.
“The person will have biweekly contact with the judge, face-to-face, and the team will review their conduct and how they progress.”
As for the new court program, which is in its early stages, there are numerous factors to consider, such as the impact of drug use.
An example the DA points to is how long-term methamphetamine use can sometimes affect mental stability.
“Some folks who have used methamphetamine over a long period actually lose themselves, their personality and their mental health. Psychosis is a side effect of methamphetamine use.”