November 15, 2006

Officials Clash Over Mentally Ill in Florida Jails

The New York Times reported yesterday, "For years, circuit judges here have ordered state officials to obey Florida law and promptly transfer severely mentally ill inmates from jails to state hospitals. But with few hospital beds available, Gov. Jeb Bush's administration began flouting those court orders in August".

Now, in a growing standoff between the government of Florida and its judges, the state is being threatened with steep daily fines if it does not comply. And at least one judge has raised the possibility that the secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families could go to jail for contempt of court.

"This type of arrogant activity cannot be tolerated in an orderly society," Judge Crockett Farnell of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court wrote in an Oct. 11 ruling.

State law requires that inmates found incompetent to stand trial be moved from county jails to psychiatric hospitals within 15 days of the state’s receiving the commitment orders. Florida has broken that law for years, provoking some public defenders to seek court orders forcing swift compliance.

With the state now rebuffing even those orders, a rising number of mentally ill inmates, now more than 300, have been left without treatment in crowded jails because the state’s 1,416 psychiatric beds are full.

Two mentally ill inmates in the Escambia County Jail in Pensacola died over the last year and a half after being subdued by guards, according to news reports. And in the Pinellas County Jail in Clearwater, a schizophrenic inmate gouged out his eye after waiting weeks for a hospital bed, his lawyer said. "

Read the full story: Officials Clash Over Mentally Ill in Florida Jails (NY Times) Free Registration Required


My God! That is shocking. Reminiscent of a third world country!

Posted by: Elda Quinton at November 17, 2006 03:58 AM

what can you expect from GW Bush's brother, respect for the rule of law? compassion for those in need? Hah!

Posted by: Jeff Fischman at November 17, 2006 10:32 AM

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