SUPPORTING FIRST RESPONDERS
When Rick was reassigned from Texas to Northern California, he was required to attended an extended year-long police academy at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) . While there he was elected Class President and took part in various instructors' activities. At the conclusion he was commissioned and certified as a California Police Representative. Rick was also offered an instructor's position at MPC . Because of is prior commitments he was immediately transferred to Southern California which prevented him from staying in Monterey. Rick was transferred back to St. Louis in 2005.
Presently Missouri has approximately 32,000 inmates in its Department of Corrections. About half of those inmates suffer from some form of mental illness. Another half of those, approximately 8,000 inmates suffer from a mental illness that is treatable i. e. Borderline Personality Disorder, Manic Depression, Schizophrenia, Dementia and others.
THE HISTORY OF CRIMINAL INSANITY AND THE COURTS.
In January 1843, Daniel M'Naghten attempted to shoot Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister of Great Britain. Instead he shot and killed Peel's secretary Edward Drummand. During the trial, M'Naghten claimed he suffered from paranoid delusions and his prosecutor argued that, in spite of his "partial insanity", he was a responsible agent, capable of distinguishing right from wrong, and conscious that he was committing a crime at the time of the murder. M'Naghten was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to an asylum, however, the prosecutor’s claim that he knew right from wrong at the time of the offense, became the standard against insanity pleas.
WHAT CHANGES ARE NECESSARY?
Care First, Prison Last as a program will not replace or eliminate the M'Naghten Rule. This Rule is only a factor during the guilt phase of the criminal trial.
Once the guilt phase of the trial is over and during the pre-sentencing portion of the trial we suggest that if an offense committed was in any way influenced by a form of mental illness i. e. Manic Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder and etc., that the offender be placed in a hospital environment, diagnosed, properly medicated. and then determined by medical professionals and the court if the offender can be treated and supervised by the Department of Social Services and not sent to prison.
HOW WILL THE COMMUNITY BENEFIT FROM SUCH PROGRAM?
The first benefit would be the reduction in prison cost. Presently we spend 825 million dollars per year for the Department of Corrections. Even a 10 per cent reduction would provide 82 million, plus eliminate any near future need for additional prisons that would be built at a cost of approximately 100 million dollars per facility. Over a three year period that could save the taxpayer approximately 370 million dollars These funds then could be used for improving the quality of mental health care and help fund the additional social services necessary thus relieving some of the demands to defund our police departments.
The most important benefit of Care First, Prison Last could be the opportunity to prevent mass school shootings like the one on February 14, 2018, at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, committed by a 19- year- old former student named Nikolas Cruz.
Prior to the shooting several reports were made about Cruz's mental health and criminal intent. Over forty such calls were made reporting that Cruz had made statements to the effect that he was going to inflict pain and suffering on others for the problems he was experiencing. According to the New York Times; Broward County authorities and school board members were "entrenched in the process of getting students help rather than referring them to law enforcement."
Cruz was transferred from six schools in three years because of his behavior including a special school for delinquent students. Rick believes their passionate attempts were sincere, however, without the proper use of the Criminal Justice System all their work was dependent on Cruz’s ability to cooperate.
Actions like Cruz’s and others who threaten the safety of the public can be better handled with Care First- type legislation and present Missouri statutes like Chapter 574 Offenses Against Public Order and Section 574.115 Making a Terrorist Threat. These statutes come with penalties varying from Class A misdemeanor to Class C felony. In others words, a minimum of 6 months in county jail or three years in state prison. This would be plenty of time with which mental health experts can assist mentally ill offenders to overcome problems and remain a productive citizen and out of prison.