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    11.08.18 Hon. Matthew D’Emic ’77 Honored by National Alliance on Mental Illness

    Hon. Matthew D’Emic ’77, Brooklyn’s Mental Health Court judge and an adjunct professor at the Law School, has been honored by the New York state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness with the 2018 Criminal Justice Award. The award was presented “in grateful recognition of [his] tremendous compassion toward people living with a mental illness and commitment to reforming the criminal justice system and the courts in order to generate positive recovery-oriented outcomes.”

    D’Emic, who serves as the administrative judge of the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Criminal Term, and teaches Problem Solving Justice at the Law School, has presided over the Mental Health Court in Brooklyn since its inception in 2002. The court was created to provide an alternative to incarceration for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness. Individuals referred to the Mental Health Court plead guilty to their charges, which are dropped after participants successfully complete the court’s 18-month mandate of medication, therapy, and drug treatment. Once they graduate, they come away with no criminal record, but if they do not complete the treatment, they are sent back to jail.

    “The court gives people a second chance,” said D’Emic. “If you put someone in prison who is seriously mentally ill, you don’t address the underlying cause of the criminal behavior, and it will continue. This court can serve as a positive influence on society.”

    Approximately 925 people have successfully completed the program through his court. It has been so successful that there are now 29 other mental health courts that have handled more than 9,420 cases as of 2017, according to the Office of Court Administration.

    “I feel very grateful to do this work every day,” D’Emic said. “You see the impact of your work in the number of graduates who have gone through treatment and are doing much better. Courts like these represent the quiet evolution of the criminal justice system, to provide justice in the form of treatment.”

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.