Mental Health and the Justice System:
Impacts, Challenges, Potential Solutions
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
3.0 MCLE Credits in Areas of Professional Practice
This program is transitional and is suitable for all attorneys
including those newly admitted.
Untreated mental illnesses and a lack of funding for, and access to, treatment – particularly for systemically underserved communities – have created a crisis at every level of the criminal justice system that impacts everyone from attorneys and their clients to judges, courthouse staff, incarcerated individuals and more. This is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but one that has been exacerbated by the multi-year Covid crisis and compounded by deepening societal inequities. Safeguarding and expanding access to justice requires finding solutions to this mounting problem, and that requires open and honest discussion in which we do not shy away from difficult debate. This summit aims to facilitate that conversation.
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
1:00 p.m. – 1:10 p.m.
NYSBA President Sherry Levin Wallach, Esq., Deputy Director, The Legal Aid Society of Westchester County
1:10 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Panel 1: Anatomy of a Breakdown
Zach McDermott, a 26-year-old Brooklyn Public Defender, woke up one morning convinced he was being filmed Truman style for a TV pilot. McDermott, author of The Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love, and his mother, Laura Barcella, discuss with Libby Coreno, co-Chair of NYSBA’s Attorney Well-Being Committee, his unforgettable, raw and public psychotic breakdown and his experience in the legal community, the legal system and mental health professionals.
Libby Coreno, Esq., Program Chair, Law Office of M. Elizabeth Coreno, Esq. PC., Saratoga Springs, NY
2:00 p.m. – 2:50 p.m.
Panel 2: Mindfulness and Mental Health: Expanding the Concept of Inclusion in the Legal Profession and Representation
Mental Health is a growing topic of concern across numerous professional platforms; however, trends suggest the topic is still highly stigmatized within the legal industry. Professionals in the legal and mental health industries discuss the importance of creating a work environment that recognizes and promotes mental wellness as necessary to fostering belonging and offering the best client services.
DL Morriss, Commercial Litigation Partner/Diversity Equity & Inclusion Partner, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP
- Carl Forbes, Jr., President, Metropolitan Black Bar Association, New York, NY
- Robin Belleau JD, LCPC, Director of Wellbeing, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Chicago, IL
- Ritika Narayanan, Immigration Attorney, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Chicago, IL
2:50 p.m. – 3:10 p.m.
3:10 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Panel 3: Criminalization of Mental Illness: Incarceration’s Effects on Mental Health & Trauma
In the second half of the 20th Century, community advocacy and a judicial decision resulted in the deinstitutionalization of people from residential mental health facilities. The principle that a person should be treated in the least restrictive setting, with a preference for community-based treatment, was and continues to be viewed as a more humane and respectful of people with mental health disorders. But the availability of community-based treatment has not kept pace with the need, and many people do not receive the mental health support they need.
Deinstitutionalization without community supports, combined with an increased focus on arresting people for “quality of life” offenses, has resulted in our nation’s jails and prisons now housing an inordinate number of people with mental illness, and these institutions have become the makeshift asylums. Yet, jails and prisons fail to attend to the most basic treatment needs of people with mental health disorders, and people are often left with inadequate treatment or no treatment whatsoever.
This panel will discuss how in the United States, we have not really deinstitutionalized people with mental health disorders; rather, we have shifted to another, less-humane form of institutionalization – jails and prisons. Panelists will also discuss how the dehumanizing and often arbitrary environment of most jails and prisons is, in and of itself, pathogenic, exacerbating and even fostering mental illness.
Patricia J. Warth, Esq. NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services
- Jack Beck, former Director of the Prison Visiting Project at the Correctional Association of NY (CA), Brooklyn, NY
- Tyrell Muhammed, Senior Advocate for the Correctional Association of New York (CANY), Brooklyn, NY
- Rev. Sharon White-Harrigan, Executive Director of the Women’s Community Justice Association (WCJA), New York, NY
Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Chicago, IL
Ritika Narayanan is an immigration attorney. As a litigator, Ritika specializes in federal litigation, removal defense, and criminal immigration (crimmigration). She helps clients navigate this quickly-evolving legal landscape and handles all aspects of corporate and employment immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, along with family-based applications.
In addition to representing non-detained and detained adults — including Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) – Ritika previously represented clients appointed under the National Qualified Representative Program. As a former staff attorney with the National Immigration Justice Center, she advocated for unaccompanied minors pursuing U-visas, asylum, and T-nonimmigrant status before USCIS. Ritika has extensive, hands-on experience with every aspect of immigration law and has successfully adjudicated numerous removal cases in addition to working alongside and against numerous law enforcement agencies.
She has worked with clients throughout the country, focusing on the Midwest, New York, the West Coast, and Texas. During and after law school, Ritika developed a solid foundation of immigration legal knowledge, including working as a student attorney for the University of Houston Immigration Clinic and as a volunteer attorney with Catholic Charities of Dallas prior to relocating to Chicago.
Honors & Awards
Selected by her peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch for Immigration Law, 2023
Patricia J. Warth, Esq.
NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services
Patricia Warth has been with the Office of Indigent Legal Services (ILS) since August 2015, originally serving as Chief Attorney for the Hurrell-Harring Settlement Implementation Unit. She transitioned to Counsel in July 2019, and to Director in June 2021.
Patricia earned a B.A. from Notre Dame University in 1989, and J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1996, after which she had a one-year federal district court clerkship (District of Rhode Island). Since she devoted her career to criminal justice advocacy and public defense reform. Ms. Warth worked for the New York State Capital Defender Office from 1997 until its closure in 2005, after which she worked for two years as Managing Attorney of the Buffalo, NY office of Prisoner’s Legal Services of New York. In 2008, she joined the Center for Community Alternatives as Co-Director and eventually Director of Justice Strategies, where she worked until 2015 when she joined ILS.
The experiences of the people with whom she works has informed her research and advocacy. She has conducted research about and delivered presentations on sentencing advocacy, mitigation investigation, NYS sentencing law, prison-based programs, sex offense registration, NYS drug law reform, and the life-long consequences of a criminal conviction to many audiences, including the New York State Bar Association, the New York State Defender Association, the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, local bar associations, and other legal and non-legal organizations. Ms. Warth was one of the co-authors of CCA’s reports, “The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered,” and “Boxed Out: Criminal History Screening and College Application Attrition, and she co-authored the 2013 article, “Barred Forever: Seniors, Housing, and Sex Offense Registration,” published in the Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy.
Rev. Sharon White-Harrigan, LMSW
Executive Director of the Women’s Community Justice Association (WCJA)
New York, NY
Rev. Sharon White-Harrigan, LMSW, is the Executive Director of the Women’s Community Justice Association (WCJA), a gender-specific, trauma-informed, advocacy-for-justice agency that uplifts and amplifies the voices of women who are experts through their life experiences and efforts. Prior to joining WCJA and leading the BEYONDrosies campaign, Sharon was the Program Director of a temporary residence for women who are formerly incarcerated at the Women’s Prison Association. She has worked in a range of direct service fields including reentry, domestic violence, homelessness, mental health and substance abuse. She has also worked on policy advocacy efforts and was a leader in the successful 10-year campaign to pass NY’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act in 2019. Sharon is an ordained minister, motivational speaker, adjunct lecturer, consultant, and therapist. She also serves as an advisory member of the Survivor’s Justice Project, the co-lead of the Bedford Hills project, a strategic consultant and senior advisor to the Women & Justice Project, Justice for Women Task Force (J4WTF) co-founder, Policy Council Member, and co-founder & executive member of Women Building UP. In her presentations, Sharon draws upon her expertise as a licensed social worker, survivor of violence, and survivor of 11 years of incarceration. She holds a master’s degree in Social Work from Lehman College, a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice from City University of New York where she was a Thomas W. Smith Fellow, and an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Marymount Manhattan College. Sharon is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Frank & Lisina Hoch Award for Social Justice Advocacy and Activism, and the 2019 Leadership Award for her advocacy to pass the Domestic Violence Survivor’s Justice Act.
Former Director of the Prison Visiting Project at the Correctional Association of NY (CA)
Jack Beck is retired but currently still very active in criminal justice issues both in New York prisons and jails and nationally in carceral settings. From 2004-18, Jack was the Director of the Prison Visiting Project at the Correctional Association of NY (CA). The CA has statutory authority to inspect prisons in New York State and to report its findings to the legislature and the public. At the CA, Jack focused on monitoring conditions within all NY prisons, including safety and violence in the prisons; prison medical and mental health care; and the impact of solitary confinement on incarcerated persons. Since 2011, he has been a member of the Psychiatric Advisory Committee of the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, which is the state agency responsible for monitoring the implementation of the 2008 SHU Exclusion Law and the 2021 HALT Solitary Confinement Law – statutes that limit the use of solitary confinement in New York jails and prisons and mandate that incarcerated persons be diverted from solitary confinement to residential treatment programs in these facilities. He is also a steering committee member of the Unlock the Box organization, which is funding groups in 19 states working to limit or end solitary confinement in their state prisons, jails, or juvenile facilities. Prior to the CA, Jack was a Senior Supervising Attorney at the Prisoners’ Right Project (PRP) of the Legal Aid Society, where he worked for 23 years. At PRP, he pursued federal class action litigation on behalf of people in state prisons and New York City jails. Jack specialized in medical care issues, with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
Elizabeth Coreno, Esq.
Law Office of M. Elizabeth Coreno, Esq. PC.
Saratoga Springs, NY
Elizabeth Coreno (“Libby”) provides counsel and consulting services to individuals, regional businesses, and international corporations in the real estate and construction industries. She is currently General Counsel to Bonacio Construction, Inc., and manages a small boutique practice (Law Office of M. Elizabeth Coreno, Esq. PC) for clients who need expertise in zoning, planning, and real property development; complex commercial and real estate transactions; land use and SEQRA actions. Over the last 17 years, Ms. Coreno has acted as land use counsel to some of the largest economic and real estate development projects in the Capital and Mohawk Valley regions of New York State.
Ms. Coreno is also a long-time advocate and speaker on the issue of attorney well-being and worked to form the first-ever Attorney Wellbeing Subcommittee at the New York State Bar Association, as part of the Law Practice Management Committee. When she was President of the Saratoga County Bar Association, she brought about the establishment of SCBA’s Lawyers Assistance Committee and currently serves as the committee’s chair. Ms. Coreno was also a contributing member of NYSBA’s Working Group for Mental Health which successfully advocated for the removal of mental health screening questions for admission to the New York State bar in 2019. In 2020, Ms. Coreno and her colleague, Dr. Kerry Murray O’Hara, PsyD, hosted the first-ever 5-part Attorney Wellbeing Podcast for NYSBA which focused on the foundations of the attorney suffering and methods to begin to shift change. When the COVID-19 shutdown began, Ms. Coreno and Dr. O’Hara developed a confidential, weekly Zoom gathering solely focused on well-being impacts to the lives of lawyers. The Lawyer-to-Lawyer Well-Being Roundtable met for 54 free sessions between 2020 and 2021 in which lawyers collectively shared fears and concerns about depression, anxiety, court closures, racial injustice, political upheaval but ultimately obtained skills for their lives, tools for their practices and a sense of belonging. She is the author of several articles on attorney well-being including, Attorney Wellness: The Science of Stress and the Road to Well-Being (with Dr. O’Hara) (NYSBA Bar Journal, Oct. 2018) and Never Alone: Addiction, Recovery & Community (NYSBA Bar Journal, Dec. 2018). She has been interviewed by national publications on issues facing lawyers and their well-being including law.com, the New York Law Journal, Bloomberg Law, and the American Bar Association’s Bar Leader. Ms. Coreno, along with Dr. O’Hara, are nationally recognized speakers and workshop leaders in lawyer well-being, specifically advocating for culture change and teaching skills for the rehumanizing of law and its lawyers.
Libby is a Saratoga TODAY™ Women of Influence, Honoree (2016), a 2003 cum laude graduate of Albany Law School, and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky. She has served on numerous non-profit boards of directors in the Saratoga region, including President of the Leadership Saratoga Alumni Board for the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. Libby maintains an active speaking and publishing schedule for real estate development law (zoning and planning), as well as professional leadership and wellness. Presentation and published articles on wellbeing include:
- Finding the Compassion Balance: Mindful Lawyering and Vicarious Trauma (NYSBA CLE 2020)
- Mindful Lawyering in Challenging Times (NYSBA CLE 2020)
- Managing Difficult Conversations (NYSBA Women on the Move 2017)
- Empowered Conversations (Northeast NY Employee Assistance Professionals Association 2016)
- Mindful Practice, Mindful Life, (NYSBA, LAP Annual Retreat 2015)
- Mindful Leadership, Leadership Saratoga, Saratoga Springs (annually since 2013)
Carl Forbes, Jr.
President, Metropolitan Black Bar Association
New York, NY
Carl Forbes Jr. is an experienced attorney and negotiator who prides himself on the excellent representation of clients. He is the Founder and Principal Attorney of Carl Forbes Jr. Law Firm PLLC, a boutique New York City firm focused on Real Estate, Estate Planning, Probate & Estate Administration, and Estate Litigation. He is also an experienced real estate investor and licensed real estate broker. Carl serves Of Counsel to Hamilton Clarke, LLP, a boutique litigation firm in New York City.
Carl has been rated as a New York Metro Rising Star by Super Lawyers (2019-2022), selected to the National Black Lawyers Top 100 list (2021-2022), and selected to Schneps Media’s 2021 A List. He is an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. (Bronx Alumni Chapter) and a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Trusts, Estates & Surrogate’s Courts Committee. Carl received his B.A., cum laude, in Philosophy, Politics & Law from Binghamton University, and his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.
Carl is the President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA). The MBBA, a unified citywide association of Black and other minority lawyers, is New York State’s largest predominantly Black bar association whose purpose is to advance equality and excellence in the pursuit of justice, aid the progress of Blacks and other people of color in the profession, address legal issues affecting the citywide community, and to foster the study of law by encouraging the personal and professional development of young lawyers and law students.
Carl previously worked as an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York Law School, where he co-taught Pretrial Advocacy and Negotiating, Counseling & Interviewing, as a Senior Associate in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution Department at international law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, and as a Special Assistant Corporation Counsel in the Office of Corporation Counsel, New York City Law Department, Brooklyn Tort and Manhattan Family Court divisions.
A Brooklyn-born Jamaican-American, Carl lives in East Flatbush with his wife, daughter, and their dog.
Partner, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP
Chicago, IL & New York, NY
DL Morriss is a civic-minded commercial litigation Partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. DL’s practice consists of representing companies in internal management and governance disputes as well as lender financial work out litigation. He also has significant experience litigating commercial landlord and tenant disputes. DL has worked at Hinshaw since 2008 and enjoys training and mentoring associates who work on his matters. DL practices in the firm’s Chicago and New York offices.
In 2017, DL was appointed Diversity & Inclusion Partner where he oversees management of Hinshaw’s five affinity groups, mentoring programs and Attorney Life Committee all focused on improving culture firm wide. As part of this role, DL facilitates strategic planning initiatives that lead to recommendations and implementation of efforts to increase the firm’s commitment to attorney development, relationship building and community engagement. DL is most proud of the firm’s recent Mansfield Rule 5.0 certification and continued improvement on The American Lawyer Diversity Scorecard.
DL has a strong commitment to civic engagement. He serves as Co-Chair of Diversity for the New York State Bar Association International Section and on the Board of Directors for The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. DL is a 2016 Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and served on its Leadership Fellows Association that facilitates engagement across nonprofit, private and government sectors to improve Chicago’s economic and cultural vibrancy. DL also has served as a Judicial Interviewer for the Chicago Bar Association as well as on the boards of Breakthrough and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boys and Girl Club, nonprofits in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood that provide services to homeless families and offers youth development programs.
DL is a 2008 graduate of DePaul University College of Law where he earned a Juris Doctor and a 2005 graduate of Wheaton College where he earned a B.A. in Psychology. DL is an avid collector of Black American art and enjoys spending time with his family.
Senior Advocate for the Correctional Association of New York (CANY)
Tyrell Muhammad is a Senior Advocate for the Correctional Association of New York (CANY). He works on all aspects of the organization’s prison monitoring. He is also a founding member of the New York chapter of the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), a national effort to reduce the excessive use of isolated confinement in prisons, jails and detention centers. Muhammad is also a founding member of Release Aging People from Prison or RAPP.
Muhammad’s experience and expertise is featured in The Marshall Project’s Emmy-nominated documentary We are Witnesses and Bill Moyers’ RIKERS: AN AMERICAN JAIL. In addition to his work at CANY, Muhammad serves as Chief Consultant for Force One International Security, and he actively mentors formerly incarcerated men and women in his community with the community reintegration process.
Muhammad earned his Bachelor of Arts from Syracuse University in 1988 and Master’s Degree from New York Theological Seminary in 2004, while serving 26 years and 11 months of a 20 years to life sentence in New York State Prison.