Feb 02, 2018
In a move that could reduce the length of time spent in custody for people with mental health needs, NYC Health + Hospitals today announced plans to consolidate under Correctional Health Services (CHS) the management of its four forensic psychiatric evaluation court clinics. The court-ordered forensic psychiatric evaluations largely comprise fitness-to-stand-trial examinations (also known as “730” exams) which, if ordered, must be completed by at least two qualified psychiatrists or psychologists and submitted to the judge before the defendant can proceed with his/her case. As the large majority of these evaluations are conducted for individuals who are incarcerated and awaiting trial, delays in the evaluation process can lead to longer lengths of stay, pending resolution of their cases. The consolidation will standardize and modernize the clinics, helping to streamline the forensic psychiatric evaluation process.
“By centralizing the oversight of these clinics, we’ll not only help streamline the forensic psychiatric evaluation process, but we’ll also tap the great expertise of our Correctional Health Services team who already are uniquely focused on minimizing the health impact of incarceration with the potential to reduce lengths of stay in jail,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals.
“The work and mission of the borough court clinics are closely aligned with CHS’ mission to support the human rights of the men and women in the city’s jails,” said Dr. Patsy Yang, Senior Vice President of NYC Health + Hospitals for Correctional Health Services. “As an essential partner in the City’s efforts to reform the criminal justice system, CHS welcomes the opportunity to help improve the timeliness of these evaluations, reduce case-processing times, and shorten the amount of time someone spends in jail.”
In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the plan to close Rikers Island and create a jail system that is smaller, safer and fairer, which includes reducing how long people are detained. The City’s efforts include programs to divert people with mental health needs into appropriate services, enhance services within detention and prevent unnecessary incarceration. Since 2013, there has been a 10 percent reduction in the number of people in custody with a mental health diagnosis and a 42 decrease in the number of women in in custody with a mental health diagnosis.
“Defendants required to undergo court-ordered psychiatric exams spend nearly three times longer in custody than other defendants held in city jails for similar charges,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “That is why the City is introducing new ways to reduce the time that people stay in Rikers pending a psychiatric evaluation. This reorganization complements the Mayor’s efforts to reduce the number of people in jail on any given day by making the process fairer and more effective.”
The court-ordered forensic psychiatric evaluations conducted in the borough court clinics are currently managed by NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue for the Manhattan and Bronx clinics and NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County for the Brooklyn/Staten Island and Queens clinics. In 2016, 1,021 individuals had at least one 730 exam ordered. The NYC Health + Hospitals reorganization will consolidate within CHS the management of the forensic psychiatric evaluation clinics, allowing for streamlined workflows, standardizing points of contact and centralizing support of all clinics. CHS will assume management over the first half of calendar year 2018, and no change in titles, salaries, or work assignments for court clinic staff are being considered as part of this consolidation.
New York City has the lowest incarceration rate of any large U.S. city with an incarceration rate of 167 per 100,000 versus 229 in LA, 252 in Chicago, 338 in Houston and 784 in Philadelphia in 2016. In addition to New York City’s plunging jail population crime rates also fell to historic lows not seen in generations. Consolidating the forensic psychiatric court clinics under CHS and streamlining the 730 process complement the City’s commitment to reduce unnecessary arrests and incarceration, direct criminal justice resources to where they will have the greatest public safety impact, and make a fairer criminal justice system.