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The Champion

January - February 2016 , Page 05 

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From the President: Want to Reduce Recidivism? Address the Mental Health Issues of Those Incarcerated.

By E.G. Morris

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When I began the practice of law some 38 years ago, a defendant’s impaired mental functioning was formally addressed in the criminal justice system almost exclusively in terms of competency to stand trial, reduced criminal responsibility by way of an insanity defense and, in some jurisdictions, a diminished capacity defense. Other degrees of impairment were addressed informally and with little consistency in the charging or sentencing decisions. Through my own experiences with presenting evidence of my client’s mental impairment to a jury, I’ve seen firsthand the skepticism that many in the jury pool have about diminishing someone’s responsibility for a deplorable act because of a condition that often manifests itself through apparently antisocial behavior. Those of us who have engaged in jury selection in cases where the mental health of the accused was an issue are well aware that a substantial portion of the public simply denies that mental health issues are real. A siz

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