Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Criminal justice and mental illness balanced in NYC consulate rock throwing case

In the years before the NYPD arrested Reza Mashayekhi for hurling rocks through embassy windows in Midtown in 2020, he’d been tortured in Iran under suspicion of spying for the CIA, walked across America, and lost his father at a time when he needed him more than ever. He had no money, work, or community when he arrived in New York after a cross-country voyage and more than a year without access to health care critical to his mental stability. “I threw rocks through the consulate with no reason,” Mashayekhi, 37, told the Daily News. “The paranoia was bothering me.” (https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/manhattan/ny-mental-health-court-graduates-nyc-legal-infrastructure-mental-illness-20230226-e2nhrbnlnzgznhf3jbpvafrddq-story.html) Then, he got lucky. Mashayekhi’s lawyers succeeded where many have not, convincing prosecutors to refer his case to a special mental health court in NYC that connects participants with community-based clinical care and supervision, housing, employment, and educational opportunities. After months of sitting on Rikers and in Bellevue’s prison ward, Mashayekhi was released from custody in February masha once his court-mandated treatment plan was ready. Now, three years after his arrest, he’s in control of his mental health and working in a job he loves. Mashayekhi’s case points to an important but not widely discussed reality: New York City has actually figured out a model to better balance law enforcement and mental health treatment, a problem that has long vexed the criminal justice system, according to both experts and data.

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