Thursday, June 04, 2009


The delivery of mental health services has largley transferred to the criminal justice system: for instance, the L.A. County jail has the largest mental health hospital in the world. As a result, people are arrested for petty crime, such as criminal trespass or disorderly conduct, and sitting in jail for a periods of time. The question becomes: do we try to get them out of jail quickly and limp through a plea; or, do we have them sit in jail for six months while we are trying to get them to a hospital. The decision becomes easier in felony court, because of the delay between arrest and indictment.

I represented a man, now in his mid-'30's, who has profound schizophrenia. As I recall, we requested that the State doctor assess him and she found him competent to stand trial. Subsequently, we entered a plea and he was placed on probation, with a requirement that he continue with mental health treatment. He was arrested for disorderly conduct, which triggered a felony probation violation. After a 90-day revocation, he was released on June 1.

I saw him yesterday on the Square and it was evident that he had not been on his medication for some time. He was unwashed and unkempt. His thought was obviously disturbed and it appeared that he was relating episodes of auditory hallucinations. I believe that he was suffering from visual hallucinations. All of this, 72 hours after his release.

We miserably fail at providing for this population of our community and it is endelessly despressing.


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