YC Launches Justice Institute to foster dialogue around issues; hosts inaugural event addressing mental illness

Although no longer wearing a uniform and badge, Jerald Monahan isn’t giving up on a lifelong quest to instill human respect and dignity in the criminal justice system.

These days, the former Prescott and Yavapai College Police Chief is approaching the quest from a different angle – from that as the director of YC’s Administration of Justice Program.

“Really, for me, this is about justice. What does justice truly look like? It gets down to how you treat people. Policing and criminal justice are human services, and we have to remember the humanity involved as we carry out the duties of the system,” Monahan said.

The police chief-turned-educator believes he has found a way to help humanize the justice system while also addressing what he strongly believes is an epidemic of misinformation about the system in news and social media. With the support of college leadership and his former law enforcement colleagues, Monahan recently launched the Yavapai College Justice Institute as an extension of the college’s Administration of Justice program.

The YCJI’s primary objective is to facilitate dialogue between justice system professionals and community members to forge trust, understanding, civility, and perhaps common-ground solutions to divisive issues.

“I wanted to bring criminal justice leadership together to hold community forums, where we could give fact to fiction, invite people to question criminal justice leaders, and to hear and learn directly from them,” Monahan said, adding, “Communication builds trust and understanding. Trust and understanding allow us to be respectful and civil in our communication — breaking down barriers.”

Additionally, Monahan noted, “Part of the mission of the college itself is to be a resource to the community. We have these wonderful facilities and the ability to bring people together to tackle important issues.”

The YCJI, which is advised by a prominent group of law enforcement, education, and human-service organization leaders from across the county and state, is hosting its inaugural community event later this month – a forum about de-stigmatization and de-criminalization of mental illness. The forum is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, in the YC Prescott Campus Community Room, Building 19, Room 147. All are welcome to attend and engage.

The forum will feature a panel of law enforcement and mental health professionals presenting information for the larger group discussion. YC Art History Professor Dr. Brandelyn Andres, who has been active in the college’s unity and equity initiatives, is moderating the forum, which also will feature information booths staffed by representatives of area mental health service organizations.

Along with hosting community forums countywide and dispelling and challenging misinformation about the criminal justice system, the YCJI aims to conduct trainings based on identified needs. Already identified by the YCJI advisory board is the need for a NARTA-like academy for law enforcement communication specialists, or dispatchers. NARTA is the regional police training academy housed at YC’s Prescott campus and supported by law enforcement agencies around the state. The dispatch academy tentatively is set to debut this summer when NARTA is out of session.

Although the YCJI is launching as a community resource, Monahan believes it may have a much wider impact. “We’re going to speak locally, but the very topics we are talking about are currently part of the national narrative on police reform. Our approach and the outcomes very well could be applied nationally and globally.”

Following are panelists and the information each will present for the Jan. 27 forum about de-stigmatizing and de-criminalizing mental illness:

Dr. Neil Websdale of the Arizona State University Family Violence Institute will discuss dementia and traumatic brain injury in domestic violence.

Dr. Virgil Hancock of the University of Arizona will discuss violence and the mentally ill.

Yavapai College Police Chief Tyran Payne will discuss mental health first aid.

Chief Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane will discuss the role of the County Attorney’s Office with mental illness cases.

YCSO Chief Deputy Jeff Newnum will discuss the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office’s reform efforts with the mentally ill.

Beya Thayer, Director of the Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition, will share the coalition’s collaboration efforts

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