MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in support of Senate Bill 233, “Maryland Department of Health – Defendants Found Incompetent to Stand Trial or Not Criminally Responsible – Commitment”, on February 7, 2018.
SB233 provides an expedited process for placing defendants unable to stand trial. The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) is required to place these individuals in a care facility by a court-specified date. If MDH fails to place the individual within that period of time, they must show the reason for this delay. Penalties are possible if the court determines that there was not sufficient reason to delay placement.
From MACo Testimony:
The lack of both state treatment beds and prompt placements of defendants court-ordered into treatment has been a long brewing issue that has reached crisis levels. These defendants have been held in county jails for unacceptable lengths of time awaiting state treatment beds. Jails are inappropriate facilities to house defendants with severe mental illness. Jails are not equipped to provide the treatment services needed and do not offer hospitable environments for individuals who, due to illness, are a danger to themselves and others.”
This is the non-departmental iteration of this bill. HB385 was submitted on behalf of the Maryland Department of Health and it included a 21-day window for MDH to place the individuals deemed unfit to stand trial. Additionally, the penalty provision is absent from HB385. Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.