Thursday, May 25, 2017

Legislatures Create Indefinite Prisoners, Without A Trial

  Oklahoma is just one of several states where legislatures are passively creating a clearly unconstitutional denial of justice.  By not directing the funding to provide sufficient mental health treatment capacity, even when a judge orders an ill person into treatment, to enable their mental recovery.
 A recent Texas case illustrates a situation for which Oklahoma's Commissioner of Mental Health was also held in contempt of court.  Commissioner White made a patient wait in jail for over 6 months. A District Court judge only withdrew the contempt punishment when White appeared before the bench and committed to better communication.
​ But the situation is not yet significantly improved. White did immediately make that transfer when the judge applied serious threats.
  The StarTribune News describes the scenario...
AUSTIN, Texas — Though a judge deemed her mentally unfit to stand trial fourteen months ago, Jennifer Lampkin is still sitting in an Austin jail cell because there are no free spots for her at the state's psychiatric hospitals.

Lampkin, 35, has both intellectual disabilities and a mental illness, and without treatment, the court couldn't reassess her competency to stand trial on an assault charge for allegedly slapping a child, which might at least allow her case to progress.
"I don't think she understands why she remains in jail," said her attorney, Elsie Craven. "She's stressed because she doesn't know what's going to happen. I don't believe she's getting the treatment she needs. How could she? She's in jail."

  Lampkin is one of hundreds of mentally ill Texas inmates who have been stuck in jail for months waiting for a spot at one of the state's overcrowded and understaffed mental hospitals. Though such problems aren't unique to Texas, its inmates face among the nation's longest waits to receive psychiatric treatment and the problem is only getting worse despite recent efforts to improve the situation.

  The average wait for a maximum security inmate to get in-patient psychiatric treatment has nearly doubled in the past two years, to 127 days, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

  For inmates like Lampkin with intellectual disabilities and a mental illness, the average wait is more than three times as long, at 417 days. That's partly because the state only has one unit dedicated to the treatment of such inmates, said Beth Mitchell, the supervising attorney for the advocacy group Disability Rights Texas.

  "People who are charged but not convicted are supposed to be let out on bond," said Mitchell, whose group has a class-action lawsuit pending against the state that argues the long waits are unconstitutional. "But in this case, these people can't get put out on bond because they don't have the capacity to agree to bond."
   If the Oklahoma legislature is committed to civil rights, they will enact sufficient line-item funding to make sure the restored capacity is quickly made a reality. It will also alleviate concerns that scores of county governments are expressing about jail expenses. Some are asking that SQ780 be overturned... simply for economic concerns. They worry that counties will bear the whole expense of housing misdemeanor convicts of simple drug possession or petty theft. But the legislature can mitigate that issue by restoring the much cheaper state mental hospital capacity. A treatment for mental illness is far more efficient than ongoing litigation & incarceration. With the new Assisted Outpatient Treatment laws, the ill person's long-term recovery can be monitored while they continue to recover the rest of their lives, livelihood, and relationships.

from Sooner - Editorial

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