Prepared by Lisa Lunt, 2017
With funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy
Lisa is from Southport Island, Maine but has lived for the last 10 years in Annapolis, Maryland. She researched the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system, specifically focusing on policies and programs that can be implemented in the courthouse, such as mental health courts. Lisa was hosted in Wellington by the Ministry of Justice.
Lisa is an Assistant Federal Public Defender at the Office of the Federal Public Defender in the District of Maryland.
A core purpose of the justice system is to make the country safe and just. It is hard to make big strides toward this goal without healing the people who are harming others. The country cannot lock up its criminal offenders indefinitely; every day they walk out of the country’s prisons. Are they more damaged, however, having spent months or years in a cell? Yes, many are, and the ones experiencing mental health issues are among the most harmed. New Zealand is poised to develop an alternative: a justice system that provides therapeutic opportunities to appropriate individuals much earlier in their cases, keeps many with the highest needs out of prison while keeping the community safe, and at a significantly lower cost than prison.
As an Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellow in Public Policy, Lisa Lunt proposes a holistic pretrial programme as an alternative to incarceration and existing release options. Under this programme, released individuals would receive a treatment plan and assistance in accessing services addressing mental health and addiction issues but also needs such as housing, employment, income, education and family relationships. A programme targeting this population will likely reduce the remand population and could also considerably decrease reoffending rates.
Download the full report in PDF format:
Preserving the Dignity of the Mentally Unwell- Therapeutic Opportunities for the Criminal Courts of New Zealand