WASHINGTON (November 19, 2003) -- Speaking for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Theodore McCarrick expressed support for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2003. He said the legislation would be a good start towards ensuring that mentally ill offenders receive the treatment they need.
Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, and Chairman, Committee on Domestic Policy, USCCB, wrote to Senator Mike DeWine, who introduced the bill, S. 1194.
In the letter, Cardinal McCarrick said that while the mentally ill population poses a difficult challenge to society, and to the criminal justice system in particular, many individuals suffering from a mental illness are being housed in prisons and jails across the country.
"In our recent pastoral statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, the U.S. bishops stated that: 'While government has an obligation to protect the community from those who become aggressive or violent because of mental illness, it also has a responsibility to see that the offender receives the proper treatment for his or her illness. Far too often mental illness goes undiagnosed, and many in our prison system would do better in other settings more equipped to handle their particular needs.'
"S. 1194 would be a good start towards ensuring that mentally ill offenders receive the proper treatment they need with grants designed to create community based treatment programs and other services," Cardinal McCarrick said. "The programs receiving the grant would be required to operate collaboratively with a criminal justice agency and a mental health agency, encouraging communication and collaboration. Establishing a network of services for offenders with mental illness would also promote public safety by curbing recidivism among this population," the Cardinal said.