District Lawyer Todd Spitzer, who oversees the overwhelming majority of felony prosecutions in Orange County, is publicly calling on his colleagues to overtake how they cope with drug use and psychological sickness – providing therapy as an alternative of jail and felony expenses.
Spitzer particularly argues folks arrested for drug use or psychological sickness ought to have the choice of therapy as an alternative of jail.
In an interview Friday, the DA informed Voice of OC he needs to begin with circumstances the place individuals are beneath the affect of medication – which he estimated at as much as 1000’s of circumstances a 12 months – although the timeline is unclear.
“I don’t consider that we needs to be sending mentally ailing folks to jail. We needs to be, instantly upon arrest, evaluating them and triaging them and placing them into applications,” Spitzer mentioned in a radio interview earlier that day on NPR affiliate KPCC.
“Those that are hooked on medicine shouldn’t be spending time in jail – the place they’re not getting any assist, and their situation solely turns into worse, they usually change into a convict. After which their probabilities of social rehabilitation and duty are diminished. So we’re not investing on the entrance finish,” he added.
In a comply with up interview with Voice of OC that day, Spitzer mentioned he needs to begin by providing therapy on the county’s new Be Properly psychological well being campus as an alternative choice to submitting expenses and jail time – so long as folks follow this system.
“I’d actually wish to combine Be Properly and take people who’re beneath the affect and begin agreeing to not file felony expenses if they comply with go in and full therapy,” Spitzer mentioned.
“I would like them off medicine. I would like them turning their lives round and being productive. That might be an enormous change in our county,” he added.
His name for an overhaul is producing a welcome response from advocates, although they are saying it must be backed up with precise motion – which they are saying there’s no indicators of but.
“We’re thrilled to listen to the District Lawyer’s workplace agrees that individuals with disabilities want entry to medical companies, not jail,” mentioned Brooke Weitzman, a number one legal professional who represents most of the poorest OC residents prosecuted for drug use and psychological sickness.
“As Todd Spitzer and Sheriff Barnes have lately prompt, police and jails should not applicable responses to medical wants,” she added.
“We sit up for seeing these elected leaders again their phrases with their actions and help group requests to cease the development of the psychological well being jail in Irvine, promote the brand new system of care by means of Be Properly, and direct funding to housing and medical response groups.”
She known as on Spitzer to again up his phrases with a collection of actions, like calling for the halting of development of the mental health treatment jail at Musick and dismissing misdemeanor felony circumstances when folks show they’re enrolled in companies like shelters and therapy applications.
Requested about these requests, Spitzer mentioned Monday he was too busy to reply as a result of he was observing a court docket listening to. He beforehand mentioned he has a group of workers that has began to take a look at reforms, although he didn’t have a timeline for when adjustments would occur.
“We’re doing an evaluation,” mentioned Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Kimberly Edds. “However that takes time.”
There’s no signal the DA’s workplace is definitely transferring anytime quickly to dismiss drug use circumstances for individuals who settle for therapy, Weitzman mentioned.
“Nope. I’ve a number of individuals who have very previous possession or paraphernalia expenses and are in shelter or [Project Toolbelt county service] applications now,” mentioned Weitzman, who represents homeless folks.
“Dropping expenses for anybody enrolled in a type of could be an awesome begin. [Criminal charges] are an enormous barrier to housing.”
Spitzer had no response when requested if he’s checked out beginning with current therapy facilities and circumstances, relatively than ready for the Be Properly psychological well being campus earlier than getting began.
Spitzer’s critics say he grandstands to get media consideration, with out really following up his phrases with significant actions. Such criticisms have been on show at a information convention Monday morning led by former LA County District Lawyer Gil Garcetti, in addition to Paul Wilson, whose spouse Christy was killed in Orange County’s deadliest mass capturing.
Requested about these critiques, Spitzer known as the criticisms “idiotic.”
Orange County’s largest legislation enforcement union mentioned it hadn’t heard of Spitzer’s name for reforms till a Voice of OC reporter contacted them. However, the union’s leaders mentioned they welcome extra therapy choices, whereas opposing any dropping of violence expenses.
“That is the primary time we’re listening to of the District Lawyer’s plan and are unfamiliar with the specifics,” the Affiliation of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, which represents deputies in addition to DA investigators, mentioned in a press release.
Union officers mentioned they agree “that there must be extra choices out there for people who’re combating psychological sickness or drug dependancy. We help any therapy that may profit somebody who has been arrested and result in rehabilitation.”
“Nevertheless, we don’t agree that those that commit a criminal offense, particularly a violent crime, ought to have their expenses dismissed,” the union added. “Psychological sickness or drug dependancy is just not an excuse to commit crimes or act in a violent and harmful method and victimize our group.”
Voice of OC reached out for remark from two of the county’s prime police leaders, Sheriff Don Barnes and the Orange County police chiefs’ affiliation.
Each are calling for extra therapy choices, as alternate options to jail, for folks with dependancy and psychological well being points.
“The Orange County Chiefs’ of Police & Sheriff’s Affiliation (OCCPSA) stands dedicated and supportive for cheap alternate options to jail sentences for low degree offenders who are suffering from dependancy and/or psychological sickness,” the affiliation mentioned in a press release to Voice of OC.
“We too consider there must be extra strong applications to cope with these points. Police leaders in Orange County have empathy for these affected by these illnesses and their households,” mentioned the assertion, which was offered by the group’s president, Placentia Police Chief Darin Lenyi.
Barnes didn’t present remark by deadline, although his spokeswoman famous the sheriff has publicly known as for extra therapy choices.
“Legislation enforcement shouldn’t be the technique or the primary face of presidency these people encounter or depend upon for assist,” Barnes informed a presidential fee final 12 months.
“Legislation enforcement needs to be the final type of authorities these folks encounter, and solely when the intervention efforts have failed leading to a felony violation of legislation
County supervisors Doug Chaffee and Don Wagner are becoming a member of these requires extra therapy choices as an alternative of jail – as are a number of the main candidates for the vacant supervisors’ seat.
“I absolutely help the concept,” Chaffee informed Voice of OC, noting that a number of service suppliers can be found, not simply the Be Properly campus that’s barely beginning operations.
“I believe this can be a step in the correct course. There are loads of particulars to work out, nevertheless,” mentioned Wagner.
“Some drug use and psychological diseases manifest themselves in felony conduct, which must be addressed. We must always get assist to the individuals who want and need it however not enable those that don’t to sport the system.”
John Moorlach, a former county supervisor now operating within the 2nd District supervisors’ election, agreed the psychological well being strategy must be reformed. However he mentioned Spitzer’s effort is “untimely” on condition that the precise companies are nonetheless a protracted methods away from being out there on the Be Properly campus.
“Spitzer could also be asking extra from Be Properly than he can count on. Be Properly continues to be in its embryonic stage,” mentioned Moorlach, who’s endorsed by the county Republican Social gathering.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, who’s endorsed by the county Democratic Social gathering within the supervisors’ election, mentioned the present system is failing to cease the cycle of individuals going out and in of jail. She needs to see a working group of specialists in legislation enforcement, social work, dependancy therapy and metropolis representatives work on options.
“It’s loads of cheaper to have a constructive system of care to assist folks get again into citizenship, relatively than this cycle of individuals going out and in of jail, and again on the streets…that’s way more pricey,” Foley mentioned.
Janet Rappaport, an legal professional who is also operating within the particular supervisor’s election, mentioned she agreed with Spitzer’s name for therapy as an choice as an alternative of jail time.
“I believe that additional funding of those sorts of applications and others with the identical aim could be a accountable funding by the taxpayers,” Rappaport mentioned.
A Voice of OC reporter contacted all 4 county supervisors and 5 candidates for the vacant 2nd District supervisors’ seat and quoted everybody who commented.
County well being officers say they’re at first phases of looking for methods to divert extra folks with mentally sickness out of jails, although no timeline has been provided.
“On the request of the District Lawyer (DA), the OC Well being Care Company (HCA) and Social Providers Company (SSA) are collaborating in a pilot diversion mission to search for alternatives to maintain the mentally ailing out of our jail system,” mentioned Dr. Jeffrey Nagel, who oversees the county’s psychological well being and drug therapy companies.
“Whereas solely two conferences in, we’ve got already centered our collective efforts to first do an evaluation of accessible diversion efforts in OC, in addition to taking a look at fashions exterior OC,” mentioned Nagel, who works as director of behavioral well being companies on the Orange County Well being Care Company.
“The workgroup will then develop a set of suggestions, together with the potential of implementing new diversion applications. The Director of SSA and HCA and the DA met together with workers to determine workers sources for this effort,” he added.
“It’s too early to spell out particular accomplishments, however this effort will help within the ‘integration’ that the DA has expressed curiosity in.”
Nick Gerda covers county authorities for Voice of OC. You’ll be able to contact him at [email protected].