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Alameda County one of many yet to implement Laura's Law

It’s been 12 years now since the California legislature passed Laura’s Law, which was supposed to allow for court-ordered treatment of people with mental illness who were a danger to themselves and others. But there was one stipulation: each county was responsible for approving its own program. But because of concerns over civil rights violations, only one of California’s 58 counties has implemented the law. And after a heated debate last month here in Alameda County, it doesn’t look like we could see this change anytime soon.

But this is incredibly problematic for the hundreds suffering from mental illness who are incarcerated every year. Instead of receiving treatment for their disease, they are condemned and sentenced to jail and prison sentences. This was the case for one man whose parents tried for years to get him treatment for his bipolar and other brain disorders only to be turned away by the system. He was later accused of committing a bank robbery and is now serving a 15-year prison sentence -- a fate his parents both believe could have been avoided had Laura’s Law been put into effect.

Readers of our blog are no strangers to the fact that our criminal justice system often favors incarceration over treatment.  Although having a good criminal defense attorney can help get a more favorable outcome, without the implementation of Laura’s Law, it’s possible that more mentally-ill people may suffer the same fate as the man above.  It’s this concern that many of our readers hope the county will consider, especially if it means providing help to those in need.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Kelly Thomas case prompts counties to take fresh look at Laura's Law,” Paloma Esquivel, Mar. 9, 2014

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