ALBANY – Lawmakers in Albany will try to address several issues before wrapping up their regular session and entering summer recess.
Among the issues on the agenda are medical marijuana, a higher minimum wage and efforts to combat heroin addiction. Legislators are also expected to consider hundreds of other bills before Thursday’s planned adjournment.
Among the measures that were passed in the Senate on Monday was a bill sponsored by Senator Cathy Young intended to strengthen “Kendra’s Law.” The measure requires all inmates with mental illness be given a psychiatric evaluation to see if Kendra’s Law is appropriate, before they are released.
According to Senator young, the bill would apply to cases like the recent one in Brooklyn, where a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of violence who refused treatment in prison, was released without counseling or medication, and days later allegedly stabbed two young children, killing one and injuring the other.
Currently, Kendra’s Law directs prison officials to evaluate mentally ill inmates before they’re discharged, and, if necessary, recommend that inmates be ordered into the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program once they’re released. However, that current requirement does not apply if the inmate refuses mental health services, as in the case in Brooklyn.
The legislation passed Monday by the Senate would close that loophole by requiring all inmates diagnosed with mental illness to be evaluated prior to release and placed in AOT. Kendra’s Law is named in honor of Kendra Webdale, who grew up in Fredonia. In 1999, a man with a long history of schizophrenia stepped onto a busy subway platform in New York City and pushed Kendra in front of a train. The bill was sent to the Assembly.
The New York State Senate also passed legislation sponsored by Senator Young that would expand work release programs to allow eligible inmates, deemed not to be dangerous, to help with not-for-profit organizations and public service projects. The bill utilizes this work force productively to help communities while giving inmates job-training opportunities.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly.