Colorado is wrongly incarcerating people with mental illness – The Denver Post
I was deeply offended by state Sen. Kent Lambert’s article impugning my motives for defeating, by filibuster, Senate Bill 252 on the closing day of session. Passage of this bill would have made Colorado the only state in the nation to legally permit keeping non-convicted people with severe mental illness in jails for up to five months.
Even now, Colorado is holding people with mental illness in jail for lengthy periods of time, infringing on their civil liberties and in direct contradiction to a 2012 federal agreement. This agreement prohibits the state from confining those with severe mental illness, who have been accused but not convicted, for more than 28 days in jail. They are being held because our state does not have the capacity to evaluate their competence to stand trial, or, once they are found incompetent, to provide adequate treatment to restore them to competence in a timely fashion.
When the legislative session ended, 269 Coloradans were jailed in 23 different counties, and held for up to 139 days.
What Sen. Lambert fails to understand is that premier forensic psychologists maintain that people with significant mental illness need to be in a therapeutic environment to receive adequate treatment and evaluation. The inherent conflict of being in jail precludes people with severe mental illness from being able to respond to clinical intervention. This opinion was affirmed by the state’s own expert, Dr. Joel Dvoskin. Both Lambert and the governor’s office were aware of our expert’s view, though this information was not shared with the rest of the legislature.
As a physician, I can tell you that this is shoddy medical care. To quote the nation’s leading expert, Dr. Neil Gowensmith, treating people with mental illness in jails is “in opposition to scientific evidence, recommendations from the American Bar Association,