By Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes
Kings County District Attorney's Office
With the recent events in the news can you describe what your office is doing to address the needs of individual defendants who have mental health concerns in Brooklyn?
In the past, a disproportionately high number of nonviolent mentally ill offenders with a concurrent substance abuse disorder had been denied the chance for treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
To aid in addressing this problem, in 1998 I launched TADD (Treatment Alternatives for the Dually Diagnosed defendants), which is an alternative to incarceration program aimed at treating offenders who are dually diagnosed with drug addictions and mental illness. A severe and persistent mental illness, together with a verifiable substance abuse disorder, generally determines eligibility.
To enter TADD, defendants must plead guilty and agree to participate in a rigorous treatment program monitored by TASC-LINK, a non-profit criminal justice case management agency that reports regularly to prosecutors and the courts.
Additionally, in 2002, New York state opened a special Mental Health Court in Brooklyn. Defendants accepted for court monitored treatment in Mental Health Court must plead guilty and agree to participate in a treatment program for 18 months to two years if charged with a felony, or 12 months if charged with a misdemeanor.
Following the successful completion of the treatment program the case is either reduced to a lesser crime or dismissed and sealed. Alternatively, if the defendant fails to abide by the conditions imposed upon him by the plea agreement, he or she is sentenced in accordance with the terms of the agreement at the time the plea was taken.
For additional information regarding these programs visit www.brooklynda.org.