In San Antonio, criminal defendants in need of a bed in a state psychiatric facility are routinely spending months in the Bexar County jail waiting for transfer.
Late last week, there were 17 inmates at the Bexar County jail awaiting transfer to a state hospital bed. Some of them have been in the county jail for almost 300 days.
In what many hail as a major court victory for the mentally ill in Texas, state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo has ordered the Department of State Health Services to transfer defendants who have been ruled incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness to a state psychiatric hospital within 21 days of receiving a judge's order, the Austin American Statesman reported.
That is indeed great news for advocates and the families of defendants with mental health problems who have fought long and hard against the criminalization of the mentally ill. Mental health patients need treatment and should not be held in local lockups. On average, mentally incompetent prisoners are spending up to six months in jail before being transferred to a state hospital.
The state attorney general's office has not yet decided if it will appeal the judge's ruling.
Complying with the judge's order will be a major undertaking. Over the last two years, there has been a waiting list of about 400 inmates for the 800 available state hospital beds.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Grits commenter played role initiating lawsuit over timely competency restoration
The SA Express News had an editorial today praising a district court ruling last week requiring state mental hospitals to timely accept defendants for "competency restoration" who've been deemed incompetent to stand trial by the courts. Here's a notable excerpt: