Civil commitment leaves Hennepin County offenders languishing

Mentally ill inmates wait months for evaluation, treatment

The emerging focus on civil liberties was a monumental step out of the Dark Ages of psychiatry, but it also created an innately more complicated system.

"Now, in Minnesota, you have a system that I think is very sensitive to the rights of individuals," says Dr. Lawrence Panciera, chief clinical psychologist for the Fourth Judicial District Court. "As good as that is—and I'm supportive of it—as soon as you put due process in the system, it slows things down."

On the heels of losing another Supreme Court case, the Legislature amended the Civil Commitment Act to include the "Jarvis petition." Named after Homer Jarvis, a Minnesota man who was committed to the St. Peter security hospital after killing his sister, the act established that a patient must be civilly committed before doctors can force neuroleptic medications.

The focus on outpatient care also posed problems, particularly when treating the most severely mentally ill. New patients came in quicker than others were leaving, and there were not enough beds to accommodate everyone.

"I've been in the system since 1989; it's been an issue since 1989," says Dr. Alan Radke, chief medical officer for the State Operated Services. "We're chronically short of beds when we're talking about secure level of care. It's a back door problem, as well as a front door problem."

Currently, patients typically enter the civil commitment process in two ways: by being brought to the hospital for an evaluation, or through committing a crime.

The former is usually a speedy process; someone brought in for an evaluation by a concerned family members might be committed within days or a couple of weeks.

Going the jail route is another story. Once arrested, mentally ill offenders simply wait for someone to suspect they aren't competent. Once that happens, a judge will file what is known as a "Rule 20 petition," which refers the offender to a court-appointed psychiatrist to be evaluated for competency.

If found incompetent, the offender is transferred to the mental health court, where a judge will determine whether the person can be committed. After that, the offender becomes the state's problem. The Department of Human Services is tasked with transferring the offender to the appropriate hospital for treatment to return the patient to competency.

"The thing to do is to make sure that there's enough space at every point in the process, so it doesn't get clogged up," says Joel Fisher, an attorney with the defense project. "It seems to be that there are clogs almost at every place."


In Hennepin County, the civil commitment system can come to a screeching halt as soon as the offender is arrested.

The defense attorney, in most cases a court-appointed public defender, is usually the first member of the court system to notice if someone is mentally ill, and possibly unfit for trial. But today, public defenders are grossly overburdened with case loads. Recent years of budget cuts have made it common for public defenders in Hennepin County to take on twice the suggested work load, meaning they spend less face time with each client. And if competency isn't brought to a judge's attention, the Rule 20 petition is likely never filed.

"We can't do anything until we get the Rule 20 petition," says Carla Hagen, senior assistant Hennepin County attorney. "They're really not even on our radar, because we're not trolling for more clients."

But even more of a burden on the system has been a dramatic increase in mental health referrals. In 2001, there were a total of 52 Rule 20 petitions filed in Hennepin County in which the defendant was found incompetent in the criminal court and transferred to mental health commitment court, according to data provided by the court. In 2011, there were 92, an increase of 77 percent.

"I think it's true that the criminal system is somewhat becoming a funnel for people that are mentally ill who don't wind up getting services through the usual route," says Carolyn Peterson, another assistant Hennepin County attorney who handles civil commitment cases.

No one is absolutely sure what caused the increase. The working theory is that we're seeing a ripple effect from the economy. As budgets have tightened, community resources for the mentally ill have been cut. With a rise in unemployment, many have lost health insurance benefits, and can't afford treatment.

"We see some folks who cycle through because they fall through the cracks," says Peterson. "They may have been receiving treatment. They lose their insurance or lose their housing, and they have a history of criminal behavior in addition to their mental illness problem, and they wind up in our system."

Whatever the cause, it is the Hennepin County taxpayer who picks up the bill. On average, it costs the county about $120 a day to house an inmate. Accounting for the costs of security, mental health nurses, and other additional services, this price can be significantly higher for mentally ill inmates. The jail wouldn't provide figures for this story, but according to a 2005 article published in the Journal of Law and Criminology, "Prisons of the Mind," the cost of incarcerating a mentally ill inmate can be up to 75 percent higher than the non-mentally ill. By this math, someone like Eugene Gates could be costing Hennepin County more than $18,000 just sitting in jail waiting for the system to find him.


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9 comments
t.tholetim
t.tholetim

Minnesota also does not mandate any advocacy for criminal & civil cases a like, in any aspect of the Minnesota Judicial system sanction by the Federal "United" States of America government.

t.tholetim
t.tholetim

P.S. Its like how everyone forgets Charles Lindbergh turned to join the German Nazi's for monetary reasons. That's a fact of the Little Falls, MN natives life. What's more evil, being honest & telling people what actually is happening & going to happen or masking plans & actions in fake to reality poetry, likewise to, "We the people,.."

t.tholetim
t.tholetim

Minnesota practices a different capital punishment. One likewise to the degenerate Thomas Jefferson, claiming, "We the people,..." to veil in a cloak of fancy linguistics to mask their Demonic Actions. If your "diagnosed" with a " severe" mental "illness", your sanctioned by the State of Minnesota to a life long, cruel & unusaul, torturious death by lethal injection of chemicals that cripple the human body as a whole. Lambs to the slaughter as it were. When people ask me, "Tim, do you think its more dangerous to take up residency in Texas or Minnesota?" I answer, "It will always be more dangerous to be a resident in Minnesota, U.S.A., than any other state in the Union." & you all can take that to the federal reserve "bank".

t.tholetim
t.tholetim

Fuck you, (The writer of this article, that is) & all your "Civil" commitments.

t.tholetim
t.tholetim

Fuck you, (The writer of this article that is) & your "civil" commitments.

Prizm2500
Prizm2500

It disgusted me to read about Ahmed Hassen and Edgar Coleman. These parasites of society should just be shot in a field and left to rot. They add no value to society- all they do is use up resources and degrade the quality of life of people that have to interact with them.

MMZIEMAN47
MMZIEMAN47

RAMSEY COUNTY DOES THE OPPOSITE. I HAD NIECE PUT IN THE REGIONS HOSPITALBY A PROSECUTOR WITH A VENDETTA WHO HAS ALREADY BEEN COMMITTED ANDGONE THROUGH ANOKA TREATMENT PROGRAM AND THEN THROUGH THE COURTSYSTEM AFTER BEING CONFIRMED COMPETENT FOR A 2 MINUTE FLEEING POLICEWHEN SHE WAS ILL AND DID NOT KNOW THEY WERE BEHIND HER. MY NIECE WASWAS IN TOTAL REMISSION AND THIS WAS CONFIRMED BY THE EXAMINATION AFTERHER COURT REQURED HER A ER. CRISIS EXAM THAT STATED SHE WAS IN TOTALCOMPLIANCE OF HER MEDICATIONS AND SENT HER BACK TO HER APARTMENT SHEHAD OCCUPIED (9 MONTHS) FROM HER RELEASE FROM ANOKA TREATMENT FACILITY. MY NIECE WAS DOING THE BEST THAT SHE EVER WAS THE DOCTORS THAT NEW HER STATED THIS ALSO. THE PROSECUTOR COULD NOT FIND A DOCTOR TO ADMIT HER TO THE HOSPITAL. SO HE EXPARTED HER FOR BEINGMENTALLY ILL & DANGEROUS USING THE SAME LAW THE CRIMINAL JUDGERELEASED HER ON. THIS WAS BECAUSE NO DOCTOR WOULD ADMIT HER!THE INVOLUNTARY HOLD COURT ORDERED SHE WAS AS THE DOCTORS STATEDABSOLUTELY NO MEDICAL CARE NECESSARY! THIS HOLD WITHOUT A DISCHARGEDATE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO STRESS AND DEPRESSION, THIS IS BORDERING ONINTENTIONAL INFLICTIOL OF EMOTION DISTRESS! THIS WAS CHARTED DAILY INHER MEDICAL RECIRDS AND SENT TO RAMSEY COUNTY ATTORNEY OFFICE DAILYPER STAFF REPORT. THEY HELD HER THERE FOR 6 WEEKS AT $2600.00 DOLLARSA DAY WITH NO MEDICAL CARE NECESSARY AND AFTER 6 WEEKS SHE DID BECOMEILL AS THE DOCTOR STATED, THEY THEN SENT HER TO ST. PETERS WERE SHE STILL IS AT WITH NO RECORD OF EVER HARMING NO ONE. THE HOSPITAL COSTBILLED TO MEDICAL ASSISTANCE AT THE REGIONS HOSPITA;L WAS $158,000.00.PAYED BY THE TAXPAYERS AND HER INDITERMINE STAY A ST. PETERS HOSPITALCONTINUES TO BE PAID BY THE TAXPAYERS. MY NIECE DOE NOT BELONG THERETHIS IS OUT OF A VERY WELL DOCUMENTED VENDETTA FROM THE PROSECUTORSOFFICE. EVIDENDLY RAMSEY COUNTY PROSECUTORS DON'T CARE WHAT IT COSTTHE TAXPAYERS. AS LONG AS THEY GET WHAT THEY WANT! I AM SURE THEY COULD SPEND THIS MONEY ON SOMETHING MORE PRODUCTIVE LIKE GOING AFTERREAL DANGEROUS PEOPLE ON THE STREETS THEN PICKING A DISABLED MENTALILLNESS PERSON WHO NEVER HARMED ANYONE THAT WAS IN FULL REMISSION.AT LEAST HENEPIN COUNTY HAS REAL SICK PEOPLE IN THERE JAILS AND HOSPITALSAT $120.00 A DAY VERSUS RAMSEY COUNTY JAILING THIS PERSON $2600.00 A DAY.MY NIECE HAD RETURNED TO HER APARTMENT AFTER TREATMENT FOR THEPREVIOUS 9 MONTHS AND HELD THIS APARTMENT OVER 6 YEARS. THE PREVIOUSJUDGE DID NOT HOLD HER BECAUSE SHE NEW SHE WAS NOT DANGEROUS. THEHER RENT WAS $625.00 A MONTH SHE IS ON SOCIAL SEVURITY AND RECEIVEDSECTION8 ASSIST! THE PROSECUTOR WANTED HER LOCKED UP! CLAIMING SHEWAS A DANGER AND BROUGHT IN A DIFFERENT JUDGE TO EXCEPT THE EXPARTE!SO THEY PAID $2600.00 A DAY TO KEEP HER IN THE HOSPITAL AND THE DOCTORSIN THE HOSPITAL TRIED TO GET HER DISCHARGED AND THE PROSECUTIOR SAIDSHE NEEDS TO STAY THERE AND GET STABLE!!! TH HOSPITAL TOLD HER COURTAPOINTED ATTORNEY "THIS IS NOT A JAIL, IF YOU WANT HER IN JAIL PUT HERTHERE"! COURT APPOINTED ATTORNEY REPLIED SHE CAN'T GO TO JAIL!!!!

portia chalifoux
portia chalifoux

The graphic is so disappointingly dehumanizing and only serves to reinforce dismal stereotype. Straitjacket and a featureless face? Is that what people who are suffering with severe and debilitating mental illness inspire as a visualization? Soulless, inhumane and without compassion - the new American way, which the story reinforces.

PaPa
PaPa

How the mentally ill are treated in the court system was reported in an accurate manner but the issue of the costs involved was really not relevant. Apparently what the reporter did not know and failed to follow up with is that once an offender is determined to be mentally incapable of a trial and sentenced to a mental facility those costs are still the burden of the county of committ.

And even if convicted, and sentenced to prison, the mentally ill sent to state mental health facilities such as St.Peter are still the cost burden of the convicting county. Offenders sentenced by the state can even do time in state prisons and later found mentally ill and thus transferred to St. Peter and then have their state time stopped and the county of committ then picks up the costs....which are on a daily rate five times that of prison. The mentally ill will always be the burden of the county, whether jammed up in the county court system or sent to a state facility.

 
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