By: Brian Tang
Governor Newsom has often been criticized for his lack of creative solutions towards California’s problems, but he has recently announced a novel strategy for tackling the growing homelessness problem that does not involve simply increasing the amount of money allocated towards this issue. He proposes the creation of a Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court that would direct homeless individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues towards social and psychiatric services instead of the incarceration system.
Newsom asserts that the overwhelming majority of homeless individuals suffer from some form of mental illness or substance abuse and are often incarcerated when they cause disruptions as a result; he claims that the L.A. County jail is akin to the “largest mental institution in the United States.” The CARE Courts, which still require legislative approval, would allow individuals who are suffering from psychosis to state their case to a special judge under specific circumstances and potentially avoid incarceration during trial.
In the past, homeless individuals with mental health issues would be placed in jail for indefinite periods of time, leading to abuses of civil liberties. Even with the creation of a mental asylum system, homeless individuals did not obtain the help they needed. Currently, most homeless individuals with mental health issues lack the means to seek out services. However, the CARE Court strategy would provide a method of gently pushing people into a court-supervised plan for up to two years. Thus, the CARE Court is seen by many experts as a means to finally shift away from the current incarceration-focused model for tackling the homelessness problem.