In an action that will advance the County’s “care first, jail last” approach, The Board of Supervisors approved a motion that will allow all who have been accused of misdemeanors, and who have been found “incompetent to stand trial,” to receive community-based restoration treatment instead of jail-based treatment.
Under U.S. law, individuals who are found to be mentally incompetent by a psychiatrist or a licensed psychologist and who are declared by a judge to be incapable of understanding the trial process cannot be tried or convicted. These individuals must be “restored” to competence before their case can be decided. In LA County currently, some men and women are restored to mental health in community settings, but some receive these services in jail.
Community-based restoration provides a number of treatment advantages, allowing clinicians to match the individual with the appropriate level of services and an appropriate treatment bed while offering a less restrictive environment in which they can maintain connections to family and friends.
As of this month, 70 misdemeanants incompetent to stand trial were in County jail.
“The people who will benefit from today’s motion are individuals accused of minor crimes. If they did not have serious mental illness, chances are they would only be in jail for a few days, but because they have serious mental illness, and must be restored to competence before their case can be decided, they often remain in jail for a long time. That makes no sense legally, medically or financially,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion. “Today’s action represents one more step we are taking to build a care first, jail last system that will lead to improved community health and safety.”
Since 2015, the County’s Office of Diversion and Reentry has restored more than 2,200 individuals in community-based restoration settings.
“Jail cannot be our catch all solution for residents living with serious mental health challenges that are in need of care,” said Supervisor Holly Mitchell, co-author of the motion. “I am proud to join Supervisor Kuehl in co-authoring this motion that builds on the County’s commitment to care first, jails last by transferring our MIST population out of jail custody and into more appropriate mental health services and care.”
Today’s motion calls for a report back that will identify existing and needed treatment beds, potential funding sources, and a plan for expanding community-based services to all eligible candidates.
Read the full motion here!