By Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub
Open letter to Wallace Bateman Jr., president judge of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas
Dear President Judge Bateman:
Beginning in 2019, my office and University of Pennsylvania's Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice began to collaborate on how to solve mental health issues in Bucks County's criminal justice system. At my request, the Quattrone Center prepared a report offering analysis and solutions on this topic. This report highlights both the need for, and benefits of, offering alternative criminal justice outcomes for criminal defendants suffering from serious mental illness. Per our recent discussion, I am attaching a copy of this June 2020 report Improving Criminal Justice Outcomes through Mental Health Court Development for your consideration. I've already provided a copy of this report to some of the other stakeholders who have an interest in a mental health court here in Bucks County.
As you know, our office and the court system already successfully identify many of those defendants suffering from mental illness and seek ways to address their specific needs through currently-existing programs, such as early intervention mobile engagement, Crisis Intervention Training for police, the Veterans Program and Drug Court, when appropriate. However, as the attached report makes clear, mental health courts offer an opportunity to address the unique problems presented by defendants with serious mental illness in a more targeted, comprehensive, and effective way.
I know that the judiciary and the Commissioners are already actively working on implementing such a mental health court here in Bucks County. As a major county stakeholder, my office fully supports this undertaking and I believe that this report will provide some useful insights to inform that process. The Bucks County District Attorney's Office remains available to participate and assist in whatever way we can to help move this project forward.
Matthew D. Weintraub
Bucks County District Attorney