Hearing - Part 1
- Part 2
Senate Judiciary Committee Holds
Public Hearing on Behavioral Health Treatment
HARRISBURG—Today, the Pennsylvania
Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator
Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-12), held an informational
public hearing on the role of behavioral health
treatment courts in Pennsylvania. Presenters and
witnesses from the criminal justice, law
enforcement, and public policy communities presented
to the committee information on the operation and
benefits of the specially designed courts to
sentence non-violent offenders suffering from drug
addiction and mental illness to treatment programs
opposed to traditional incarceration.
Senator Greenleaf said, "Today's
discussion has shed light on the importance of
better managing specific groups of non-violent
offenders whose contact with the criminal justice
system may be greatly reduced or eliminated through
treatment and rehabilitation."
According to recent estimates,
between 70 to 80% of prisoners are addicted to drugs
or alcohol and 20 to 25% of inmates suffer from some
form of mental illness.
Pennsylvania currently operates 18
adult drug courts, with more than 1,300 individuals
enrolled in treatment programs. Eleven more courts
are in the planning stages. As well, seven juvenile
drug courts are in operation in the Commonwealth.
Treatment court judges assign
carefully screened defendants to counseling,
substance- abuse treatment, educational assistance
and healthcare support and then closely monitor the
progress of each defendant.
Defendants who successfully complete
treatment programs may have their charges dismissed
and their records expunged. Offenders who have
completed a drug treatment program are 30% less
likely to reoffend.
Legislation to expand treatment
courts and provide funding for their implementation
is currently being considered in the Pennsylvania
"If more qualified offenders were
assigned to treatment programs as first time
offenders, we may transform otherwise life-long
criminals into productive and healthy citizens,"
said Senator Greenleaf.