Court Delays Hitting Mentally Ill Defendants

Nobody has to tell civil courts advocates that some court functions enjoy more political attention and funding priority than others. But there’s increasing concern that mentally incompetent defendants are being stuck in county jails because there are just not enough hospital beds available, at least not ones designed for treating the mentally ill. Of course, the system is creating a revolving door as the lack of treatment leads people right back to local jails.
The San Luis Obispo Tribune has one of the better local stories about the trend, which is shaping up as a key issue for the upcoming state budget battle. Recent federal court rulings have increased focus on mental health under Obamacare, and these cases are sure to gain priority. The Tribune explains the situation: “The problem is particularly notable for defendants declared incompetent to stand trial. Competent defendants understand the charges against them and can assist their attorneys in their defense. If an attorney doesn’t think a client can do that, he declares a doubt in court. At that point, psychiatric evaluations are ordered. If a judge deems the defendant incompetent, the case is suspended, and the defendant is ordered to undergo treatment until competency is restored.” Except backlogs and cutbacks make that process nearly impossible,
Read the report here.