Bill would make judges, not prosecutors, determine if defendant goes to mental health program
A new bill proposal would enact a law that would allow judges instead of prosecutors to rule if a defendant should be admitted to a mental health court program.
Currently the decision lays with the district attorney offices, but the bill is aiming to provide a better path to treatment and a harder path to jail.
Reza Mashayekhi and his father were held as political prisoners in Iran. He was granted amnesty and was able to come to the United States. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia after a few years and was arrested several times for throwing rocks at consulate buildings in the city.
With the help of his lawyer Jeffrey Berman, Mashayekhi was able to be admitted into the city’s mental health court program, which helped him get his life back on track.
“I became successful and I successfully graduated,” said Mashayekhi. “Now I have my job. I love it and I’m working.”
Berman says his client’s admittance to the mental health program is rare, which is why he is in support of the proposed bill. He says allowing judges to review each case and decide if treatment is best would help reduce the re-arrests of New Yorkers suffering from mental illnesses.
“Not only is a treatment that one receives from a mental health court transformative for that individual, but it’s also good for increasing public safety,” said Berman.
Advocates for the Treatment Not Jail Act are confident that lawmakers will pass it. In the meantime, Mashayekhi continues to get support from the mental health court program he graduated from in 2021.