Criminal Minds: Substance Use and Mental Health in the Justice System

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Memorial Union Building Theater II
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Gaudet, Kate
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Criminal Minds: Substance Use and Mental Health in the Justice System

It has become a commonplace that prisons are now our country’s largest mental health facilities. The rate of mental illness (including substance-use disorders) in prisons and jails is estimated to be between double and quadruple that in the general population. New Hampshire has the sad distinction of being at the bottom in the nation’s rankings of mental health and addiction recovery access; many of our state’s mentally ill people are being “treated” by the correctional system. Understanding the definition of a criminal requires understanding the role of mental illness.

Anne E. Parsons, Associate Professor of History and Director of Public History, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Professor Parson’s new book, From Asylum to Prison: Deinstitutionalization and the Rise of Mass Incarceration after 1945 (UNC Press, 2018), analyzes the connections between the politics of incarceration and the deinstitutionalization movement of the mid-twentieth century. Her work emphasizes how the lack of community health services and the fear of mental illness created an epidemic of mental illness within the prison system.

Tom Velardi, Strafford County Attorney

Attorney Velardi oversees criminal prosecutions (with the exception of murder cases) in Strafford County. He has been a prosecutor in New Hampshire for over 20 years, and has helped to create alternatives to incarceration. He is a founding member and team member of the Circuit Court Mental Health Court in Rochester, and a team member on the Strafford County Adult Treatment Court. He also created the Habitual Offender Academy, which helps people with criminal records regain driving privileges. 

Joseph Lascaze, ACLU-NH

Joseph Lascaze is the Smart Justice Organizer for the ACLU of New Hampshire. Having over 10 years of firsthand experience with the incarceration system, Joseph’s work now focuses on advocating  for criminal justice reform in New Hampshire. A wholehearted believer in the power of community building, Joseph’s work is founded on the notion that those impacted by the incarceration system are best positioned to lead reforms of it.  Under the ACLU’s Smart Justice Campaign, he has collaborated on various initiatives with the NAACP, #cut50 and Lyft.   

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