Jackie Lacey served as District Attorney for Los Angeles County from 2012 to 2020. She was both the first woman and the first Black person to serve in this important role. A District Attorney is an elected official, and their role is to represent the people in prosecuting crimes in the county.
In 2014, DA Lacey initiated a committee to look at the nexus of the criminal justice system and mental illness. As you will hear from this interview, she was encouraged and supported and mentored by many people. In particular, she mentions Judge Steven Leifman who is known for his crusading work in this space in Miami-Dade County.
She also gives considerable credit to the Los Angeles chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) and their participation in the task force.
The resulting report – Mental Health Advisory Board: A Blueprint for Change -- was issued on August 4, 2015 and was acclaimed as an important guide to move forward on key initiatives to not only change the manner in which crisis response calls are handled by law enforcement (who are really not equipped to play this role in the mental health space) to imagining a different way forward to either divert people struggling with mental illness from the criminal justice system or place them in supportive housing upon release from jail. Among several changes initiated (including a robust Crisis Intervention Training commitment made by the dozens of local law enforcement agencies throughout L.A. County), the Office of Diversion and Re-entry (ODR) was created which has led to positive outcomes in reducing recidivism and stabilizing people leaving the criminal justice system.
As the report states on page one: “the jail environment is not conducive to the treatment of mental illness.”
Heart Forward is grateful that Jackie Lacey displayed the leadership and courage to take this on.