PADUCAH – Paducah and McCracken County leaders discussed Senate Bill 90 Thursday afternoon. A pilot program in the works for McCracken County is based on this bill, which aims to reduce recidivism rates among people with mental health issues.
In the criminal justice system, recidivism refers to a pattern of behavior in which a person finds themselves charged with another crime or returned to prison after being released from jail or prison.
The bill gives eligible people the option of receiving treatment for behavioral health issues instead of being incarcerated.
According to 2019 data, more than 360 people in McCracken County are eligible for the program.
McCracken is one of 11 counties participating in the pilot program.
“It will take collaborative partnerships to achieve this,” said Dr Tonika East.
She helps lead the pilot program in McCracken County based on Senate Bill 90.
This is an educational program where eligible individuals will receive treatment for their mental health conditions instead of being incarcerated. Successful completion of the program will result in the dismissal of criminal charges.
Commonwealth attorney Dan Boaz said McCracken County’s goal was to protect the public and prevent people from reoffending.
“With that comes the hard work of trying to make sure that, statistically, we do what we need to do, because we can talk all we want, but unless we have the numbers to prove it, we’re really not doing anything,” Boaz said.
Leaders say it’s going to take a variety of avenues to help resolve recidivism, including employment, housing, mental health support, medication and career counselling.
It all depends on the education of the people in the program.
“I’m optimistic that if we can get them to discipline themselves in an educational system, hopefully that will lead to other parts of their lives,” Boaz said.
Radiation is a motivator for people to participate. This is when charges or convictions are erased from a person’s record.
But leaders say participants have to put effort into the program to receive delisting.
“The goal is to have this file erased, isn’t it?” says East. “That’s the carrot we’re handing them, but they’re going to have to accept some type of ownership.”
Through the work of partnerships and collaboration, leaders hope to reduce recidivism rates in the county.
East said there were several qualifications people had to meet to participate in the program.
You must be 18 or older, have committed a Class D felony or misdemeanor, and have a qualifying mental health condition.
Senate Bill 90 passed in March 2022 and was signed into law by the Governor in April.