Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Home for the Holidays

As I'm writing this, I'm in the house I grew up in. I am spending time with my family for the holidays. It's always strange for me being home. Maybe because I've lived somewhere else for so long. I went as far away from home as I could get to go to college, and then I went even farther away for law school. I lost touch with nearly everyone I knew here. In a way, it seems like just last week I was sneaking in the door late at night, hoping not to wake my parents. And in another way, it seems like this is not really the same place I lived in at all. I mean, this is the same house, but the kitchen and both bathrooms have been re-modeled, and there is a lot of new furniture. Only one of the houses in the neighborhood contains the same family that it did when I lived here. They put in new, brightly colored play equipment in at the park a block away. They are about half-way finished demolishing the auto-body plant that I walked by every day on the way to school, picket-lines and all. Kids I used to baby-sit for when they were three years old are now juniors in college. It feels like I somehow fell asleep for ten years, like Rip Van Winkle.

But at the same time, it can't be that strange. I mean, throughout this post, I've been calling this house, this place I am now "home": a place I haven't lived since I was eighteen. They say, "Home is where, if you have to go there, they have to take you in." I didn't have to come here. I chose to. My family's here, and I wanted to spend Christmas with them. If "home is where the heart is" (sappy though that saying is), then I guess my heart, at this time, is here with my family. As it should be at this time of year.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Mental Health Update

I'm apparently not the only one concerned with the mental healthcare (or lack thereof) in the criminal justice system.


I was somewhat encouraged this week with regard to our new judge and competency cases. I had my 3 "dangerousness" hearings on Thursday, to which I referred previously. She actually agreed to dismiss two of the cases, as the State conceded that the clients did not meet the definition of "dangerous" in the statute, and the third she sent to the state mental hospital to treat to competence. I was surprised that she agreed to actually dismiss the cases, rather than wanting the State to dismiss them. I was hoping she would dismiss the third case, since the client had already been to the mental hospital on this case, and upon return to jail refused her meds and became incompetent again. But, at least, she's out of jail for a while. And who knows, maybe this time she will actually stay on her meds.

The really good development occurred after the hearings, when the judge asked the Deputy DA, me, and the court administrator back to her chambers. She wanted to discuss setting up a mental health court, and it seems that she really wants to go through with it. As I said in the post linked above, my only reservation with this is that we don't have a lot of services in this community for the mentally ill, and without adequate services, I don't see how a mental health court would work. But both the court administrator and the Deputy DA agreed with me that services in the community were required for this to work. So, I feel better about this now. The administrator is going to get us some procedures manuals from other mental health courts in the state in the next couple of weeks so that we can see how theirs work. He also wants to schedule a field trip to a mental health court sometime in January to see what it looks like. In the meanwhile, he's going to explore funding sources.

My boss even said I could represent our office in whatever committee gets formed to implement this. It is exciting to be able to help address a problem that the justice system is unable to adequately cope with, but that affects the justice system and those involved in it on a daily basis. I invite anyone to comment with ideas of what works or doesn't work.

'Tis the Season

Well, I guess it's officially the Holiday Season. I can tell this because the weather is cold, the mall is packed, plane tickets are expensive, there has been a marked increase in my shoplifting and larceny cases, and I have a cold. That's ok, though. I'm kind of in the mood for the holidays this year. Some years I'm really not that interested in Christmas. I mean it's kind of a hassle to do all the preparatory shopping, and I frequently end up with a lot of trials set for the first couple weeks of December because the judges want to go out of town for the holidays and they don't want to let the time-limits run. But for some reason, I'm actually "in the Christmas spirit" this year, whatever that means. It may have something to do with the fact I get to spend Christmas with my family this year. Or maybe it's because I had a whole bunch of trials set September through November, and there aren't any left for December. Or maybe I'm just fickle.

Whatever the reason, I think I'll just enjoy this feeling as long as it lasts. I will play Christmas carols on the stereo, surf the internet for Christmas presents (I never could stand the mall), try to be nice to everyone, and be happy no matter how many bah-humbuggers there are out there.