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admin | Category: Check A Phone Number Location | 22.06.2014
Judge Orlinda Naranjo of Austin is poised to finalize a ruling this week that will require jails to send mentally incompetent inmates for treatment at a state hospital within 21 days of the time they are ordered committed. She said in a letter last week outlining her expected ruling that the current average wait of six months for a spot at a state mental hospital violates the constitutional rights of inmates who have been found incompetent to stand trial and are awaiting psychological assessment and treatment. The ruling comes in response to a 2007 lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Texas, an advocacy organization, on behalf of inmates who had waited in county jails for four to 17 weeks before getting psychiatric treatment. There are nine state mental hospitals in Texas with a total of 2,477 beds to treat civil and criminal patients.

The shortage of state hospital beds is a problem that local law enforcement officials have been grappling with for years as sheriffs cope with overflowing jails, in which many of the inmates are mentally ill. Part of the problem, Bradley said, is that there is no clear division between which kinds of mentally ill inmates ought to be the responsibility of local officials, and which ones the state should take care of. Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general’s office, which is representing the state in the lawsuit, said lawyers there had not decided whether they would appeal Judge Naranjo's ruling. Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them.

The organization argued that many mentally ill inmates, particularly those charged with nonviolent offenses, have spent more time waiting in jail for treatment than they would have spent in jail under a sentence for the crime of which they were accused.

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