By Bob Katzen

This bill would create a new court verdict of “guilty but with a mental illness” that would carry the same sentence as provided by law for a defendant found guilty of the same crime, except they would serve the sentence at a mental health facility instead of a prison.

The measure also provides that if the defendant is a male and the court determines that strict security is required, he would be housed at Bridgewater State Hospital.

“This legislation aims to address the use of prisons as wholly inadequate facilities to treat mental illness,” said sponsor Sen. Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington). “In Massachusetts, defendants often fail to receive the mental health treatment they need which often contributes to committing a crime and winding up in our criminal justice system. For far too many years, we have relied on prisons to treat mental illness when they cannot, all while we have therapeutic, safe and secure facilities dedicated to this treatment that can be used instead.”

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