Decriminalizing Mental Illness

Loyola Law School’s Policing Los Angeles Forum Examined Prosecution of Mental Illness and Issued Inaugural Award

WATCH Decriminalizing Mental Illness Event

The Policing Los Angeles Forum series at LMU Loyola Law School hosted “Decriminalizing Mental Illness in Los Angeles County: Policies & Practices” on Thursday, Nov. 7 on its downtown L.A. campus. The event honored Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, with the inaugural Center for Juvenile Law & Policy Award for Public Service & Social Justice.

Co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society and The Justice Collaborative, the symposium featured an array of policymakers and stakeholders. Practitioners, advocates and impacted community members reviewed the criminalization of mental illness in Los Angeles County, including its historical context, and discussed a roadmap for treatment-based alternatives to incarceration in L.A.

The event’s speakers will sought to answer a number of questions. Questions like, “How did we come to rely on the criminal legal system to address mental illness? Why are such policies in need of change? How can we transform existing practices and move toward non-carceral solutions to a public health issue?” said Professor Eric Miller, Leo J. O’Brien Fellow and founder of the Policing Los Angeles Forum (PLAF).

Speakers included:

  • Verah Bradford, Head Deputy, ODR/Mental Health Diversion, Law Office of the Public Defender
  • Patrisse Cullors, Organizer, Artist, Educator
  • Nancy Eng, Board Member, National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Joseph Iniguez, Deputy District Attorney, Office of the Los Angeles District Attorney
  • Sean Kennedy, Professor & Kaplan & Feldman Executive Director of the Center for Juvenile Law & Policy, LMU Loyola Law School
  • Elizabeth Kim, Director of Clinical Programs, Office of Diversion & Reentry,
  • Department of Health Services
  • Efty Sharony, Former Director, L.A. Mayor’s Office of Reentry
  • Reba Stevens, A. County Mental Health Commissioner
  • Alicia Virani, Associate Director, Criminal Justice Program, UCLA School of Law
  • Elizeth Virrueta, Youth Organizer & STOP Coordinator, Youth Justice Coalition
  • Gilbert Wright, Head Deputy District Attorney, Mental Health Division, Office of Los Angeles County District Attorney

The free event was open to the public and held in the the Burns Lounge on Loyola Law School’s campus at 919 Albany St., Los Angeles, CA 90015. 

About the Justice Collaborative

The Justice Collaborative is a non-partisan, not-for-profit team of legal experts, researchers, journalists and media strategists working toward a comprehensive vision of a fairer and more equitable criminal justice system. TJC supplies legal, policy and communications expertise across a collection of aligned projects meant to empower, educate and support communities advocating for change from both inside and outside the system.

About the Policing Los Angeles Forum

The Policing Los Angeles Forum Series debuted in February 2018 and has included the panels “Promoting De-Escalation Training,” “Policing Under SB54,” “Police Policy-Making,” “Police Body Cameras” and many more. View video of past panels and learn more at

About LMU Loyola Law School                                        

Located on an award-winning Frank Gehry-designed campus in downtown Los Angeles, Loyola Law School is home to prominent faculty, dedicated students and cutting-edge programs. The law school strives to instill in students the knowledge they need to excel on their chosen paths. It dedicates itself to preparing students for the rigors of practice with an extensive portfolio of practical-training opportunities, an 18,000-strong alumni network and a focus on social justice. Learn more at