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Delaware Docket Newsletter
Summer 2009


     Since December, the Delaware Supreme Court Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Health has been hard at work identifying issues faced by people with mental illnesses and exploring ways to improve the treatment of the mentally ill within Delaware’s criminal justice system. Chaired by the Honorable Henry duPont Ridgely, the Task Force has brought together judges, state leaders, legislators and nonprofit organizations to develop a strategic plan. The Task Force’s Interim Report, which details current Task Force projects and includes a list of preliminary recommendations, is now available.

Justice Henry duPont Ridgely, Chair of the Delaware Supreme Court Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Health, stated:

“The frequency with which people with mental illnesses enter our courts, jails, and prisons remains a critical issue. This Task Force is greatly enhancing our understanding of the problems that individuals with mental illnesses face, enabling us to encourage inter-agency cooperation, identify specific gaps in resources, including improvements to treatment options, as well as steps to take, when appropriate, to help individuals with mental illnesses avoid contact with the criminal justice system.”

     One of the Task Force’s projects was to provide copies of the Judges’ Guide to Mental Health Jargon, a reference for mental health terms most often encountered by the Judiciary, to all Delaware Judges and Justices of the Peace. The Task Force has also applied for funding to expand the Superior Court Mental Health Court into Sussex County. Additionally, it has worked to educate the public about the need for mental health courts and the issues faced by those with mental illnesses by publishing numerous articles on mental health and criminal justice issues. Over the course of 2009, the Task Force will continue working on developing a strategic plan designed to improve the quality of life for those with mental illnesses in Delaware, increase public safety, and ensure that state funds directed toward mental health issues are being used most cost-effectively.

Phot of Justice Henry duPont Ridgely
Photograph by Hugh Williams of Lawdragon