SSJs Support Mental Health Reform

April 13, 2021

The SSJ Justice and Peace Office is advocating for a proposed state law aimed at addressing the mental health crisis. Daniel’s Law would create and establish state and regional mental health response councils, which would authorize mental health professionals to respond to mental health and substance abuse emergencies instead of the police. The law is named after Daniel Prude who died following his arrest by the Rochester Police Department in March 2020. According to police reports, Prude, an unarmed Black man, was experiencing a mental health emergency after ingesting PCP. The incident sparked days of protests in the City of Rochester after police body-cam footage of the arrest was released in September.

Sister Phyllis Tierney, SSJ Justice and Peace Office Coordinator, sent a letter to state officials supporting Daniel’s Law saying, in part, “As Sisters of Saint Joseph who have served members of the Rochester community for over 160 years, we are deeply concerned about the racial injustice that has been part of our community’s fabric for many years. As we examine our own issues regarding race and equity, we also must examine the role of racial inequity within the justice system in our local, state, and national culture. Recent events including the death of Daniel Prude have highlighted the need for a different response to persons experiencing mental health crises, especially where Black and Brown people are involved.” The letter noted that similar initiatives have already been put in place in several other states.

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