Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Correction Committee Chair Daniel O'Donnell today announced the passage of legislation aimed at preventing a repeat of the tragic June 1st stabbing of two young children in Brooklyn, in which one child was killed and another was severely injured. The perpetrator was a mentally ill man who had been recently released from prison without any mental health medications or any contact with mental health treatment facilities within the community. Prior to the incident, the man's parole officer informed her supervisors that she believed him to be dangerous and thought he should be sent to a mental hospital.
The legislation, sponsored by O'Donnell, would require mental health discharge planning for inmates and, if necessary, appointments with psychiatrists or other prescribing mental health professionals in the community upon their release from prison (A.10071). This would help to better ensure that medication orders do not lapse and that the released inmates remain under appropriate medical supervision.
"This tragic event could have been avoided entirely if the appropriate steps were taken to ensure that this mentally ill man was under careful supervision and continuing treatment for his illness," Speaker Silver said. "There was absolutely no reason for a lapse in his mental health treatment and absolutely no excuse for it to ever happen. The safety of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens cannot afford to be put at risk. Mental health discharge plans are a strong first step in addressing this problem. Hopefully, having these plans in place will put a stop to horrific incidents like this one by ensuring that inmates requiring mental health treatment are not released from prison without a concrete plan for the continuation of their care."
"While this tragedy may have been an exceptional case, we simply cannot ignore the pressing need to ensure that inmates who depend on the stabilization of mental health services do not experience a lapse in their treatment," O'Donnell said. "Such gaps in care have the potential to seriously threaten the safety and wellbeing of our communities. As with the June 1st stabbings, the end results place a heartbreaking burden on the loved ones who must cope with the aftermath. This legislation is not only a swift response to a tragic event, it is a step toward ensuring similar incidents never, ever happen again."
Currently, parole officers can initiate petitions for assisted outpatient treatment under Kendra's Law, but cannot begin a petition for involuntary commitment for parolees. In addition to the discharge plan, the bill would also authorize regional community supervision directors to act quickly and independently in situations where a parole officer feels that a mentally ill parolee is in need of hospitalization.