County Jails Are Not Mental Health Facilities

MACo submitted written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in support of Senate Bill 233, “Maryland Department of Health – Defendants Found Incompetent to Stand Trial or Not Criminally Responsible – Commitment”, on March 29, 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:

While some progress has been made by the State to address internal processing issues and the lack of beds, more must be done. The State must continue to build on the progress made and take steps to ensure the crisis is abated now and for the future. Due to the severity of their mental illness, holding these inmates in jail longer than absolutely needed is unconscionable. County jails cannot continue to be de facto mental health facilities.

SB 233 establishes a process for defendants in need of treatment to be promptly placed in state facilities for care they need without languishing inappropriately in county jails.”

SB 233 passed the Senate 45-0 on March 14. For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.