Utah Law Expedites Treatment for Mentally Ill Defendant

A new law in Utah will reduce the wait times for those charged with crimes and who are considered mentally ill and not competent to stand trial. The law was a response to a class action suit filed by mentally ill low-risk defendants and their families. These inmates were held in regular prisons for as long as three to six months and many experienced a severe decline in their symptoms as the result of prolonged incarceration and insufficient treatment.

Instead of forcing these inmates to wait months in regular jails without appropriate treatment, under the law, the wait time will be reduced down to 60 days within 6 months of an agreement by the judge. Once the year mark has been reached, the wait time will be reduced to 30 days. The judge in the cases is expected to take no more than 45 days to approve of the arrangement, as reported by Deseret News. The law that mandates funds will be given to expedite the process of treatment for forensic patients who require treatment from a mental health professional prior to standing trial.

The class action lawsuit was brought by inmates who were often forced to wait for months in regular prisons without adequate treatment. In addition to the law, outreach programs have been successful in addressing the needs of forensic patients who are defendants and have provided support and care in prisons as well as in the community for low-risk defendants. These programs in Utah have been successful in finding solutions for 90 cases and cost much less to implement than traditional solutions–$16 a day in some cases rather than $500 price tag at Utah State Hospital. The Utah legislature has set aside $3 million for new projects to help mentally ill defendants receive the care they need.