Miami soon will open the nation’s first “forensic diversion” center for mentally ill people who otherwise would be destined for the criminal justice system, says Judge Steven Leifman, who has long advocated for defendants with mental problems. Leifman addressed the annual forum of the National Criminal Justice Association, which is meeting in Fort Worth, Texas. Leifman has described the facility as a 180,000-square-foot, stand-alone treatment center for the acutely mentally ill. It was funded by a $42 million county bond issue. Miami’s courts, which have been national leaders in improving the handling of crime suspects with mental problems, already have reduced the recidivism rate of such defendants from 72 percent to 20 percent by sending them promptly to medical units rather than jailing them, Leifman said.

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