PolitiCal

Steinberg seeks to restore grants for mental health offender programs

SACRAMENTO -- State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) on Thursday proposed resurrecting state grants for county programs that deal with mentally ill people who run afoul of the law.

After a decade of state funding, the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grants ceased in 2008 due to budget cuts. Steinberg is seeking to restore funding, starting with $50 million.

Unless Steinberg finds room elsewhere in the upcoming 2014 state budget, the funding is contingent on whether Gov. Jerry Brown receives a delay in a federal court order to reduce crowding in state prisons.

Brown had agreed to special legislation that sets aside a portion of the state's savings if the court's limit on the prison population is postponed. That money would allow the state to enact mental health programs and other efforts aimed at reducing crime.

Without a delay, the governor intends to use the money to send state prisoners to private facilities out of state.

Steinberg said the competitive grants would be aimed at funding programs such as mental health courts, where judges sentence mentally ill offenders to treatment programs instead of jail. Though the Senate leader has no legislation drafted, he said he would dedicate a portion of the grants to programs that help mentally ill juvenile offenders.

"We are trying to build that system that was promised decades ago, when the psychiatric hospitals were shut down," Steinberg said. "We are trying to build it layer upon layer."

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Brown optimistic about prison crowding talks

Judge adds solitary confinement of mentally ill to prison crowding talks

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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