12 Sep “What they’re doing is irreparable harm to individuals,” said Iris Eytan
Colorado Increasingly In Contempt As More Judges Recognize That Jail Isn’t A Mental Health Answer
BY ALLISON SHERRY | SEPTEMBER 11, 2018
Published in cpr.org
Almost 300 mentally ill people across the state have been in jail for months — before being convicted of anything — because state officials say there is not enough room at the mental health hospital to treat them before they stand trial.
Some of those people, many of whom face low-level charges like trespassing, have been in a county jail cell for more than 100 days. At least one man has been there more than 200 days.
The lengthy wait times are in violation of a 2016 federal court order. The state agreed then to get people mentally restored to stand trial within 28 days of a competency evaluation.
But by December of 2017, the state was out of compliance with that agreement and court documents show the number of people sitting in jail for months awaiting competency restoration has spiked — from three in June 2017 to 281 in July 2018.
“What they’re doing is irreparable harm to individuals,” said Iris Eytan, a lawyer representing Disability Law Colorado, which has sued the state four times in the last ten years for this problem. “And that’s unfair and that’s a violation of the Constitution.”