Preaching The Importance of Jail Diversion & A Step Forward At Home

Three minute KSL interview in Salt Lake City about Utah

2-16-15) I’m often interviewed when I travel and when that happens, I always talk about the importance of Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement, problem solving courts and re-entry programs that help persons with mental illnesses receive much needed services after they are discharged from jails or prisons.  Candice Madsen, a reporter for KLS in Utah, divided her interview with me into a local news report and one shown nationally — primarily to members of the Mormon faith.

Three minute national Deseret News interview

Last Thursday (2-12-15), Fairfax County, Virginia, launched a special docket to help veterans. This is a major step where I live because the Virginia judiciary has been reluctant to create much-needed problem solving courts. The credit goes to Judge Penney S. Azcarate who served in our military and was able to rally support from her fellow veterans.

In a Washington Post story about the court, Justin Jouvenal noted there are 76 veterans currently in the Fairfax County jail and 51 on probation. Several have Post Traumatic Stress issues directly related to their military service, and/or co-occurring drug or alcohol addictions. They need and deserve our support and help.

Sadly, the preventible death of Natasha McKeena last week in Fairfax after she was stunned by a taser more than four times in the Fairfax County jail stole the spotlight from Judge Azcarate’s accomplishment.

I dare say the 37 year-old mother might be alive today if she had gone from being booked into the jail directly into a mental health court where she could have been transferred into community treatment rather than languishing in jail for eight days in an isolation cell where she became more distraught while Fairfax and Alexandria officials tried to decide what to do with her. She was buried today. Let’s hope Fairfax County officials learn from McKenna’s death — and the costly lawsuit that is sure to follow it — the importance of helping persons with mental issues rather than locking them up.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Judge Azcarate and her supporters!



About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.