Defendants Deemed Mentally Incompetent Face Treatment Barriers
California defendants with mental health issues who have been deemed unable to stand trial are spending more time in prisons, despite orders to provide them with treatment at a state hospital, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports.
According to the Tribune, defendants in criminal court must be able to comprehend any charges against them and help in their own defense. If a defendant is unable to do so due to mental health issues, a judge can rule him or her mentally incompetent to stand trial and order the defendant to a state hospital to receive treatment.
Courts have recommended that defendants with mental health issues be sent to a state hospital within 35 days of such a decision.
Barriers to Treatment
According to the Tribune, defendants with mental health issues often face wait times longer than the recommended 35 days for competency programs.
For example, a program at Atascadero State Hospital in 2014 had an average wait time of 53 days. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times in April reported that the state's six hospitals that treat inmates with mental health issues had more than 300 individuals waiting for treatment at a time.
According to the Tribune, the wait times can be attributed in part to:
- An increase in workload at state hospitals; and
- Inadequate staffing.
To help curb the issue, California has urged counties to treat inmates with mental health issues at jails until space is available at a competency program (Pemberton, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 6/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.