A new law in Texas will allow counties to create pretrial diversion programs for first responders who commit crimes because of job-related mental health issues.
The law, inspired by similar courts available to veterans, was pushed by one of Texas’ largest police unions, and it sailed through a Legislature eager to help law enforcement in the year following a Dallas shooting that left five police officers dead. But at least a few county judges and experts say the courts seem unnecessary or concerning, and many large counties don’t appear interested in setting them up anytime soon, reports the Texas Tribune.
Starting in September, counties will be able to establish a specialty court for law enforcement officers, firefighters, prison guards, county jailers, and paramedics charged with any misdemeanor or felony. The law focuses on those who suffer from a brain injury, mental illness, or a mental disorder — such as post-traumatic stress disorder — that they got from their job. Eligible defendants could bypass criminal prosecution and instead go into a treatment-based program specific for each case.
Counties can choose to limit what types of crimes are eligible, and both the prosecution and judge in each case must sign off for a defendant to be eligible. Participants in the program who are able to pay can be charged up to $1,000 plus the costs of any testing, counseling, or treatment.