State Psychiatric Facilities Best Equipped To Handle Mental Illness

On Febraury 23rd, 2021 MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified before the House Judiciary Committee in opposition to HB 851 – Corrections – Restrictive Housing – Serious Mental Illness. This bill seeks to ensure proper care for inmates kept in restrictive housing.

Mr. Sanderson joined Major T.D Reece from the Calvert County Detention Center, expressing concern that the bill’s application to county facilities was misplaced, despite the compelling argument for inmate welfare.

From the MACo Testimony:

Maintaining safety and order among inmate populations is a perpetual challenge – and one that is exacerbated when inmates face mental illness that threaten the safety of themselves or others near them. No correctional administrator relishes the use of restrictive housing, but in some situations, it is warranted and required to offer adequate protection. HB 851 seeks to ensure that such situations are accompanied by an array of evaluations and services to limit the duration and severity of such confinement where possible.

Applying these same standards to local correctional facilities sounds superficially appealing, but belies a difficult reality – local jails are, in the main, simply an unsuitable location for such inmates.

Local jails simply lack the proper facilities and staff expertise to deliver appropriate mental health care and screenings. In Maryland’s correctional system, a State facility is clearly the ideal setting for such inmates. However – a lack of available State beds leaves far too many unwell inmates in local care for far too long. The crux of this problem is the insufficiency of the correct facilities for this population.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2021 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.