Minnesota judge to Congress: Criminal justice system failing the mentally ill


A Hennepin County Judge told a U.S. Senate subcommittee Tuesday that the country's criminal justice system is failing Americans with mental illnesses.

The Star Tribune reports Judge Jay Quam urged the panel to strengthen mental health programs and work to make amends for conditions that have already devastated many lives.

The newspaper says Quam told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights: “People with mental health conditions are brought to jail far too often, they too often languish there, and there is danger in keeping them there.”

Quam testified in support of a bill co-sponsored by Minnesota Sen. Al Franken called the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act. It would authorize $40 million for mental health courts, law enforcement crisis intervention teams, and mental health screening for veterans.

In a statement after Tuesday's hearing Franken said the country uses the criminal justice system as a substitute for a well-functioning mental health system, adding "We're basically using our jails to warehouse people with mental illness. For me, this is a moral issue."

Find a video of the hearing here. Judge Quam's testimony begins at the 44 minute mark.

Franken's bill has been approved by the Judiciary Committee but he said in December that its path to a floor vote is being blocked by two Senators who argue the states should determine how their justice systems deal with the mentally ill.

Just this week another Star Tribune newspaper, this one in Casper, Wyoming, published a story focusing on one woman's experience with mental health and jail to illustrate what the paper describes as a revolving door. Ashley Overfield was diagnosed as bipolar with schizophrenic tendencies at age 19 and has been to jail more than a dozen times in 14 years, the newspaper says.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has issued a 42-page Guide to Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System, as well as a guide to the system specifically for advocates of adults with mental illness.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-10-20 at 6.42.51 AM

Boy, 15, undergoes surgery after being shot near south Mpls. park

The 15-year-old was transported to HCMC and was taken into surgery.

i-94 crash st. michael - 2021.10.19

Maple Grove man ID'd as victim of fatal crash on I-94

That side of the freeway was closed for a few hours on Tuesday afternoon.

Joel Eriksson Ek

Eriksson Ek's hat trick completes Wild's rally over Jets

A late review helped the Wild win their home opener.

Screen Shot 2021-10-19 at 8.11.35 PM

Watch: Marcus Foligno starts fight with a superman punch

Foligno was not messing around in the first period.

Union Gospel Mission graffiti side by side - Duluth PD

Vandals target longstanding Duluth soup kitchen, transitional housing site

Union Gospel Mission has been operating in the city since 1922.

House for sale

The crazy Twin Cities housing market is showing signs of slowing down

Agents are seeing fewer multiple offers and no inspections are less prevalent.

Ben Simmons

Simmons' reunion with 76ers lasts mere days, chance for Wolves?

Woj says the Sixers remain "steadfast" in their plans for Simmons.

mitchell ottinger

Sub teacher involved in 'sextortion' of more than 10 minors pleads guilty

Some of the minors he knew from the school district where he worked.

flickr ice castles new brighton 2020 - Greg Gjerdingen

The Ice Castles, a winter favorite, are coming back to the Twin Cities

The popular attraction was canceled last winter due to COVID.

joey meatballs

4 new vendors coming to Rosedale's POTLUCK food hall

Three restaurants and a VR company are opening soon.

flickr - Lorie Shaull - Line 3 pipeline Palisade July 2021

Enbridge misses deadline to fix its groundwater blunder

The company had 30 days to stop the leak it caused by not following its submitted plans.

wikimedia commons - the beach boys 2019 - joergens.mi

Beach Boys bringing 2021 holiday tour to Minnesota

The iconic band's "Holiday Harmonies" tour stops at Treasure Island just before the new year.