The Department of Health revamps court ordered mental health and substance abuse treatment placement procedures; The State’s Attorneys’ raise concerns about Drug Courts and RICO; and Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) implementation work continues.
The Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board (JROB) held a quarterly meeting on Wednesday, November 15 in Annapolis.
Officials from the Maryland Department of Health provided an update on the overhaul of their processes for court ordered mental competency treatment (under Title 3) and court ordered substance use disorder evaluation and placements (under 8-505 and 8-507).
The Department has been working on increasing capacity for the mental health treatment beds and reorganizing their internal structure for managing the court ordered placements. Notably they have 95 new beds in the works, reduced the waitlist backlog from about 50 in June to 11 as of this week, and have created a centralized admissions office to serve as the single point of contact for processing all the court orders for evaluation to treatment services for mental health or substance abuse issues.
In regards to the 8-505/8-507 substance use disorder placements the Department shared that they have the bed capacity, but have identified the hold ups within the system that have caused placement delays. As a result they have adjusted their processes, communications, and training to help meet the JRA requirement of placing the court involved individuals into community facilities within 21 days of the court order. The Department is also working to improve the delivery of substance use disorder services to non-court involved individuals.
JRA implementation updates were also provided from the Division of Parole and Probation, the Judiciary, County Jails, and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections on topics ranging from restitution, employee and stakeholder training, data collection, and inmate education and certification.
Representatives from the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association testified to the JROB about their concerns with the details of Act. They primarily raised issue with: (1) the negative impacts on specialty courts, specifically drug courts; and (2) the difficulties prosecuting cases under the RICO provisions.
The attorneys’ asserted that lengthy jail sentences help motivate offenders to participate in drug court. The reduced sentences in the Act for certain crimes makes some offenders ineligible for the more intensive and longer drug court programs, and also makes drug courts less attractive of an option overall given that the standard sentencing is now less severe. They would like to see specialty courts exempt from the JRA. Additionally the state’s attorneys are finding it harder to prosecute cases under the new RICO laws and would like to see the state adopt the federal RICO model.
The 25 member board, chaired by Judge Daniel M. Long, is charged with overseeing the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Act (SB 1005), the law passed during the 2016 outlining comprehensive state criminal justice reform. Duties include collecting and analyzing data, creating performance measures, and making recommendations for reinvestment of savings. The board meets quarterly.
For more information about the JROB visit the GOCCP website.
Prior coverage from Conduit Street: