Mark Speiser, Ginger Lerner-Wren, and Howard Finkelstein
sparked an international movement …
Treatment Court Nominated for International Award
Fort Lauderdale, FL – Broward County’s ground-breaking Mental Health Court is pleased to announce it has been nominated for the prestigious Innovating Justice Awards for 2013. The awards are given annually by HiiL, a foundation for international justice in The Hague, Netherlands. The prizes go to projects around the world that develop innovative ways to deliver justice. HiiL chooses finalists for the award based partly on votes cast online by the public. The awards will be announced on Dec. 11. They carry a cash prize of 50,000 euros (about $67,000), which HiiL uses to promote the spread of the winning innovation worldwide. Voting runs from Oct. 7 to 18. To vote, click here. (JAABLOG will post a reminder when voting starts on the 7th … )
Since it was launched in June 1997, Broward’s Mental Health Court has provided a compassionate, alternative form of justice to an estimated 16,000 people with mental illness who had been arrested. Before the court’s inception, mentally ill defendants routinely spent months in jail for minor crimes such as loitering or disorderly conduct, rather than getting treatment they needed, according to Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, a co-founder of the program.
Broward’s court was the first in the nation focused solely on crimes caused by mental health, and it tackled a highly complex national problem. For the past 16 years, this specialized therapeutic court has swiftly identified individuals with serious mental illness in need of appropriate mental health treatment and support and diverted them out of the jail system and into community-based treatment. Research demonstrates that the approach is smart justice that saves tax money, reduces recidivism, and promotes public safety, while respecting the dignity and human rights of offenders.
The court has been widely emulated, by at least 250 cities across the country, and dozens more in the works. Congress embraced the concept as a national model, passing legislation in 2000 to expand diversionary criminal justice strategies. The HiiL Foundation recognized the achievement, and nominated the program in the category of Successful Innovations.
“The court was a bold innovation which emerged from desperation. Our mental health system of care was in shambles, our jail was over-crowded, and a task force was formed to seek solutions,” said Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, who has presided over the court since its first day. “We had no money, but we had a courageous community with a shared vision to deliver justice. Broward’s influence has been profound across the country and internationally.”
For more information about the awards and nominees, and to cast an important vote, visit the foundation, or visit the Mental Health Court’s Facebook Page.
60 Minutes: Untreated mental illness an imminent danger? (9/29/13)