Caltagirone bill to provide Pa. criminal justice system training on mental illness and intellectual disabilities poised for House vote

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, said the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved his legislation calling for law enforcement training related to those suffering from mental illness and intellectual disabilities within the criminal justice system.


Under Caltagirone's H.B. 221, police officers and the minor judiciary, such as magisterial district judges, would receive training on recognition and proper de-escalation techniques to be used when interacting with individuals with mental illness or intellectual disabilities. The bill also calls for instruction on diversionary options for these individuals, such as alternative sentencing or treatment. The training for magisterial district judges would take the form of continuing education.


"It is incumbent upon us as a governing body to address the significant problem of individuals with mental illness or intellectual disabilities ending up in our prisons," Caltagirone said. "As a first step, this would better equip our police and minor judiciary with the tools and training needed to identify these individuals at the earliest point in the criminal justice system and get them proper treatment."


Caltagirone added that according to recent estimates, nearly 50 percent of female inmates and more than 20 percent of all inmates in state prison receive mental health treatment.


"Getting the cost of corrections lowered is a must and if we continue to use incarceration as the only option for the mentally ill and intellectually disabled, everyone suffers," said Caltagirone. "This bill will provide law enforcement with the tools they need to protect themselves and provide judges with the wherewithal to divert certain individuals into treatment rather than prison."


The bill, which has bipartisan support, now moves to the full House for a vote.