Justine Olderman testifies before City Council on the stigma of mental illness

Managing Director of the Criminal Defense Practice Justine Olderman presented oral testimony before the New York City Council Committee on Courts and Legal Services earlier this month, on May 12. While commending the efforts that the Mayor and City Council have made thus far to address the over-incarceration of the mentally ill, Justine’s testimony called attention to the fact that much more remains to be done to provide access to services and treatment to mentally ill clients so that they not only can be released more often at arraignments but also avoid future criminal justice involvement. In particular, Justine’s testimony drew attention to one overarching issue that must be addressed if the City Council efforts at reform are to be successful: the problem of stigma. Highlighting the pervasive ignorance and fear surrounding mentally ill individuals within the criminal justice system, which ignores the individual histories, diagnoses, successes, and struggles, Justine’s testimony underscored the need for formal training to educate all key stakeholders in the criminal justice system–from prosecutors to judges, from institutional providers to 18b attorneys, from corrections and DOC officers to court clerks.