In 2018, Oregon set a record for the most criminal defendants that are too mentally ill to stand trial. According to Oregon State Hospital admission records, 718 defendants were court ordered to be patients at the facility and treated for their mental illness until they gained the capacity to stand trial. Of these individuals, 286 were only charged with misdemeanors.
A federal court order requires Oregon to admit these mentally ill defendants to the Oregon State Hospital within seven days. But Oregon continues to violate this court order which results in frequent delays in hospital admission. Some of these delays are up to a month in length. According to an investigationby the Oregonian, from January 2018 to February 2019, jail and hospital officials failed to get people out of jail and into treatment within seven days in more than 200 cases. This accounted for 29% of all admissions for mentally ill defendants. Of these defendants, 63 had only been charged with a misdemeanor.
Oregon officials blamed a number of different factors for the slow hospital admissions. Officials state there is a lack of beds available at the facility. They also cite late paperwork filing and delays in transportation arrangements. In two cases they blamed the delay on bad weather. Whatever the reason for the delay, the result is that people are languishing in jail and not receiving the resources they need.
When individuals with mental illness are kept in county jails instead of in mental health facilities, they are not receiving the treatment they need. It's an unfortunate reality that county jails in many states end up serving as inadequate mental health care facilities. However, the individuals in Oregon who are not receiving timely treatment are often severely mentally ill and should not be forced to spend extended time in jail. They deserve treatment and not punishment. They face further harm to their mental health by being forced to remain in the county jail for weeks or even months without proper treatment.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disability. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.