December 12, 2022

ALBANY, NY: Governor Hochul must prevent Mayor Adams from arbitrarily locking up poor and Disabled people. Deputizing the NYPD as the morality police with the mandate to banish everyone they deem “mentally ill” is discriminatory and un-American.

The Mayor’s plan is rooted in containment and control and underpinned by ableism, classism and misogyny. His plan is harmful, discriminatory and shortsighted. He is perpetuating the debunked myth that gun violence and mental health are linked. According to The Lancet Psychiatry, people with mental illness are twice as likely to be the victims of violent crime compared with those in the general population. Nothing about the Mayor’s plan is “compassionate.” He is using the oldest trick in the book: giving people someone to blame. Our community is not to blame.

Poor, Disabled, Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), undocumented and trans folks are already overrepresented in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, nursing facilities and other institutional settings. Locking more people up will not stop gun violence. The Mayor needs to apologize for his plan and acknowledge that gun violence is bigger than one cause.

The community the Mayor intends to warehouse reflects the value he – and by extension the Governor – have placed on poor Disabled people. The last time New York moved aggressively to banish poor, Disabled people was over 100 years ago when Eugenicists attempted to remove those deemed “unsightly.” 

MHEP calls on Governor Hochul to implement the recommendations of the State’s Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC). The MISCC is responsible for overseeing the implementation of Olmstead v Lois Curtis, the US Supreme Court case that ruled that States have an obligation to provide services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

For people – and particularly Disabled BIPOC – experiencing mental health crises, encounters with the police can be deadly. Governor Hochul should appoint members of the Disability Community to the Municipal Law Enforcement Training Council to advise on curriculum. The Basic Course for Police Officers should include more training on how to identify and communicate with Disabled individuals and people experiencing crisis. For sworn personnel, in-service training on de-escalation, crisis intervention and mental health should be at the same frequency as weapons qualification. The Governor should also expand Crisis Intervention (CIT) and Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Teams (EDPRT). EDPRTs are groups of officers specifically trained on a voluntary basis to respond to situations involving people in crisis.

Rather than watch as the Mayor reboots 19th century Ugly Laws, Governor Hochul must tell the Mayor to work directly with impacted communities to develop realistic community-based solutions that meet people where they are and get them connected to the supports they need with the respect and dignity they deserve. Governor Hochul can also explore using Executive Authority to cut any red tape.

Failure to defend all New Yorkers’ rights to freedom is unforgivable. Governor Hochul must stop the Mayor from turning back the clock to 1895.