Judicial Commission Discusses The Role Of Mental Health In Civil And Criminal Justice

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By Alexandra HartJanuary 12, 2018 1:48 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Texas’ two top courts met yesterday in Austin to address mental health challenges within the civil and criminal justice systems.

During Thursday’s Judicial Commission on Mental Health, Justices from the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard from experts on how to better serve defendants with mental health issues.

One of those experts was Tom Mitchell with the Texas chapter of the national veteran support organization U.S. vets. He said undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder can lead vets to impulsive behavior, such as assault, that lands them in jail.

“I compare it to the game jenga which is the game with the blocks. If you think of each one of those blocks as a traumatic event and you keep stacking them up, eventually, they’re all going to fall down. And that’s what happens with veterans,” Mitchell said.

A 2016 mental health committee report from the Texas Judicial Council says that adults with untreated mental health conditions are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than the general population.

The Commission will recommend changes for the state’s judicial system and also put forward suggestions for the Texas legislature to improve justice for those suffering from mental illness.

The San Antonio City Council has voted to raise the legal age to buy tobacco.

Adults between the ages of 18 and 20 will no longer be allowed to purchase tobacco products – including vapes – inside city limits. San Antonio is the first city in Texas to raise the age to 21.

Texas Public Radio’s Joey Palacios has more:

The ordinance goes into effect October 1. District 7 councilwoman Ana Sandoval says the move is an equalizer that could discourage some people from taking on smoking and making it a lifelong habit.

“Because it will affect the wealthiest neighborhoods, it will affect the poorest neighborhoods,” she says.

Retail operators voiced concern the ordinance would cause them to lose revenue, as (tobacco customers will simply go any of the other cities in Bexar County. That was a point made by District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, who voted against the ordinance.

“I’m failing to see how making San Antonio an island here in Texas and not only an island but with holes within that island is going to be effective,” Perry says.

San Antonio Metro Health has plans to work with the smaller neighboring cities to put in similar policies. Store Fines for selling to minors could be up to 500 dollars.

Nearly twenty school libraries damaged by Hurricane Harvey are getting a helping hand from a former first lady.

The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries just announced $850,000 worth of grants to be paid out to 17 schools along the Texas coast. The grants range from $1,500 to $70,000, and will be used to help rebuild book collections damaged by the storm.