Monday, May 5, 2008

New Grant for Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense

The State Justice Institute has awarded the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense $90,000 to analyze how three Texas counties -- Dallas, Tarrant, and Travis -- serve defendants with mental illness, in order to determine whether a statewide process should be implemented.

From the TX Task Force press release:

"Working with the Office of Court Administration, the Task Force will use study model programs that have been piloted in Dallas, Tarrant and Travis counties. From the study, a joint project with the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University and the National Center for State Courts, the Task Force will develop a proposal for a statewide approach to work with offenders who suffer from mental illnesses."

According to Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals and Task Force chair, 'This study will make recommendations that can help courts identify mentally ill persons in the court system and more effectively address, as appropriate to the particular case, the mental health needs of this population.'

Last year Judge Keller created a Mental Health Task Force to address the courts’ problems with mentally ill people in criminal proceedings. The Mental Health Task Force is part of a national project to improve how the mentally ill are handled in the criminal justice system.

'This project is a unique opportunity nationally to develop evidence-based practices for public defense systems to more effectively divert mentally ill offenders from further involvement with the justice system,' said Dr. Tony Fabelo, research director of the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments and a leader of the project’s advisory committee."

See for more information.

(Source: Consensus Project Newsletter May 2008)

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