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Lawmakers clash over bill to create alternative to jail for those with mental health issues

Republican state Sen. Doug Steinhardt criticized Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz over her bill.

Matt Trapani

Jun 20, 2023, 11:09 PM

Updated 366 days ago

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State lawmakers got into an argument on Tuesday during a state Senate hearing about a bill that would create an alternative to jail for those suffering from mental health issues.
Republican state Sen. Doug Steinhardt criticized Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz over her bill. He questioned potential loopholes and whether first-degree offenders would be allowed in the program.
“This is a horrendous bill, with horrendous consequences. It should be reworked or thrown away altogether and resuscitated as something else. But in the form that it’s written now, it poses a danger to every person in this state,” Steinhardt said.
But Ruiz says the bill simply expands programs that are already in place in more than six counties, including her home county of Essex.
“I have faith in what will be a leading game-changer in the state,” Ruiz said. “It’s a different approach, it’s a good approach, it’s a proven approach - not solely in the state. There’s more than 300 programs that operate in the entire country.”
Essex County Prosecutor Ted Stevens said the version of the program in his county has been an “overwhelming success” with a 1% recidivism rate.
The bill passed the committee along partisan lines.


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