ICARE’s Justice Moment:
People shouldn’t have to go to jail for being ill
A woman told us the story of how her ex-husband died in police custody while having a mental health crisis. His mother had called 911, and the responding officer put him in a chokehold to gain control. The man died before his mother’s eyes.
About 1.5 million people arrested in the U.S. each year have a serious mental illness. Jails have become the largest public psychiatric units in the country. But police officers are experts in stopping crime, not in helping people who are having a mental health crisis.
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training gives officers specialized in-depth instruction on how to recognize and de-escalate mental health crises. The best CIT programs partner law enforcement with courts, mental health professionals, peers and advocacy groups to address mental health issues.
Sheriff Mike Williams says new-recruit police academy training already covers this. But other police forces do much more than ours. Miami’s CIT program has been so effective, the county was able to close one of its three jails.
Last year the sheriff agreed to have JSO assessed by CIT International, a national expert in CIT programs. He did not follow through. The certification only costs $1,000. We’ll insist he keep this promise when we deliver hundreds of hand-signed letters in the presence of media (the week of Feb. 14). And, we’ll ask him to attend ICARE’s Nehemiah Assembly at 6:45 p.m. March 28. Join us and help make great things happen.
Arrested for Living While Black
During Reconstruction, Black people were heavily fined and jailed for trifling offenses, like walking the railroads, insulting gestures or language, sex with whites, public drunkenness, vagrancy, neglecting one’s employment, selling liquor and disturbing the peace.
Experts in racial equity say today’s misdemeanor system is a legacy from those times. 80% of criminal cases in the U.S. today are for misdemeanors, and these laws are disproportionately enforced against people of color.
ICARE welcomes you to join us for Racially Charged, a film that explores the racialization of America’s misdemeanor system, at BBUUC’s fellowship hour on Feb. 27.
Our sheriff and state attorney committed last year to replace certain nonviolent misdemeanors with a civil citations program, but they have not yet acted. ICARE’s Nehemiah Assembly is where we build the power to bring our officials back to the table. Join us at 6:45 p.m. March 28.