Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mental Health Care

Recently I became involved in a Task Force led by the Department of State Health Services, and prompted by the approach of full capacity at the state hospitals.
In that context I became aware of an upcoming public hearing that may be of interest:
Rural Strategies for Jail and Hospital Diversion
March 3rd, 2010, 9AM-3PM
Czech Heritage Center, La Grange, Texas


9:00 AM Continental Breakfast

9:20 AM Welcome
Judge Dan R. Beck, Mike Maples, Andrea Richardson

9:25 AM Overview of the Day
Susan Stone

9:30 AM Mental Health Jail Diversion Strategies
Henry Steadman, Dan Abreu
Description of Session: An overview of successful mental health and criminal justice diversion strategies across the national spectrum will be described, along with discussion of rural implementation issues.

10:00 AM National Perspective on Mental Health Courts
Henry Steadman, Dan Abreu
Description of Session: Specialized court based jail diversion strategies have been growing in numbers across the country. Highlights of successes and challenges of mental health courts will be described.

10:30 AM Break

10:45 AM Using Data to Drive Policy
Henry Steadman, Dan Abreu, Susan Stone
Description of Session: As the reliability of meaningful data is dependent upon commitment of stakeholders to develop systems to gather, report and analyze local data, this session offers a practical approach to performance measurement supporting policy making decisions.

11:15 AM Collaboration Among Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Entities in Rural Areas
Susan Stone, Henry Steadman, Dan Abreu
Description of Session: Meaningful outcomes are dependent upon commitment and collaboration. Rural areas with a relatively sparse population density in a large geographic area realize significant barriers for the development and sustainability of mental health jail diversion. Rural initiatives in other jurisdictions, cost implications and funding strategies will be discussed.

12:00 Lunch (Provided)

12:45 PM Reactor Panel
Description of Session: Invited local and state representatives will be asked to discuss implications and applicability of information provided in the morning session to local and state policy and planning efforts.

1:30 PM Break

1:45 PM Public Psychiatric Hospital Bed Capacity Crisis: Preliminary Recommendations of the Continuity of Care Task Force
Susan Stone
Description of Session: As the increasing need for forensic beds places added pressure on the scarce resource of public psychiatric beds in Texas, practical recommendations based upon national successes are presented and public feedback is solicited.

3:00 PM Adjourn

Monday, February 8, 2010

Changing Times for Making the Record

The Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) has issued perhaps the most hard-hitting white paper that I've seen, as this excerpt will show:

If court administrators were to describe the current model for creating the verbatim court record to anyone unfamiliar with court operations, would their confidence in the court system's efficient use of staff and technological resources be lessened? What would they say if they learned that thousands of staff are assigned to individual courtrooms to make this manual record even though few cases are appealed? How might they react if they learned that the manual recording of those proceedings is made in a media that could be interpreted into written English only by the individual making the record? How would we explain that in most states the recording is the property of the employee and not the court? What reason would we provide for the fact many employees receive a fee beyond their government salary from litigants requiring transcription for appeal purposes and that the timely preparation of these records is not under a court’s control? How would we explain that public access to the official court record can be obtained only by paying this fee to a public employee? If this process were complicated by the declining supply of reporters and by the current economic crisis, how would we respond to their questions on how we intend to improve and strengthen the business of creating, producing, and maintaining the court record? These questions demonstrate that change is necessary.

Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force

On Nov. 16, 2009, the Supreme Court of Texas established this much-needed task force via Misc. Docket No. 09-9183, to chart a course for preservation of the historical treasures to be found (and sometimes stolen from) in Texas courthouse records. The 19 member task force is chaired by Bill Kroger of Baker Botts and has a meeting this Wednesday Feb. 10 at 1:00 in Austin.

Juror Use of Electronic Communications

At its December 2009 meeting, the U.S. Courts Judicial Conference Committee on Court
Administration and Case Management (CACM) endorsed a set of suggested jury
instructions that district judges should consider using to help deter jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate about cases on which they serve. They developed these instructions to address the increasing incidence of juror use of such devices as cellular telephones or computers to conduct research on the Internet or communicate with others about cases. Such use has resulted in mistrials, exclusion of jurors, and imposition of fines. The suggested instructions specifically inform jurors that they are prohibited from using these technologies in the courtroom, in deliberations, or outside the courthouse to communicate about or research cases on which they currently serve. Here they are in their entirety:

Proposed Model Jury Instructions
The Use of Electronic Technology to Conduct Research on
or Communicate about a Case
Prepared by the Judicial Conference Committee on
Court Administration and Case Management
December 2009

Before Trial:

You, as jurors, must decide this case based solely on the evidence presented here within the four walls of this courtroom. This means that during the trial you must not conduct any independent research about this case, the matters in the case, and the individuals or corporations involved in the case. In other words, you should not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information about this case or to help you decide the case. Please do not try to find out information from any source outside the confines of this courtroom. Until you retire to deliberate, you may not discuss this case with anyone, even your fellow jurors. After you retire to deliberate, you may begin discussing the case with your fellow jurors, but you cannot discuss the case with anyone else until you have returned a verdict and the case is at an end. I hope that for all of you this case is interesting and noteworthy. I know that many of you use cell phones, Blackberries, the internet and other tools of technology. You also must not talk to anyone about this case or use these tools to communicate electronically with anyone about the case. This includes your family and friends. You may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cell phone, through e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

At the Close of the Case:

During your deliberations, you must not communicate with or provide any information to anyone by any means about this case. You may not use any electronic device or media, such as a telephone, cell phone, smart phone, iPhone, Blackberry or computer; the internet, any internet service, or any text or instant messaging service; or any internet chat room, blog, or website such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter, to communicate to anyone any information about this case or to conduct any research about this case until I accept your verdict.

Evidence-Based Sentencing

The Center for Sentencing Initiatives has available a new model curriculum developed by the National Center for State Courts, The National Judicial College, and the Crime and Justice Institute to assist trial judges in developing sentencing practices that improve public safety and reduce the risk of offender recidivism. Intended as a six-hour course, the program was developed to help judges:

- identify those offenders who are the most appropriate candidates for recidivism reduction strategies;

-target conditions of probation at relevant offender characteristics to achieve effective sentencing outcomes;

-improve responses to violations of probation;

-identify the components of effective probation supervision practices and treatment programs;

-reduce the risk of re-offense through positive interactions with offenders; and

-work effectively with other criminal justice agencies to adopt effective sentencing and corrections practices.

Let's hope this curriculum is noted by the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Center for the Judiciary, and other entities concerned with educating Texas judges and attorneys in criminal justice. And take note, legislative staff, the closest thing in current law (1991) in Texas focuses attention (as we did back then) on diversions, it is (mis)placed in Government Code ch. 22 (Appellate Courts):

Sec. 22.012. TRAINING RELATED TO DIVERSIONS. (a) Each attorney representing the state in the prosecution of felonies and each district court judge shall, as an official duty, each year complete a course of instruction related to the diversion of offenders from confinement in the institutional division.
(b) The supreme court shall adopt rules to provide for the training required by Subsection (a). In adopting the rules, the court shall consult with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to obtain the department's recommendations for instruction content.
(c) The instruction must include information relating to:
(1) case law, statutory law, and procedural rules relating to felony diversions; and
(2) available community and state resources for diversions.

Added by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., 2nd C.S., ch. 10, Sec. 11.09(a), eff. Aug. 29, 1991