Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sheriff Wants To Force Drugs on Mentally Il

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is crafting legislation that would let county jail officials forcibly medicate mentally ill inmates who won’t take prescribed drugs.

Sheriff Terry Maketa said the jail has become the de facto largest mental health treatment center in the county and needs the same authority as a mental hospital to force medication.

“We’re there. The day has arrived,” Maketa said last week. “We can stick our heads in the sand and pretend it is not an issue, but it is.”

After years of budget cuts to state mental health programs, the jails of Colorado have become the primary mental health providers in Colorado, according to sheriffs and mental health advocates.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, 18 percent to 22 percent of jail inmates here have “significant mental health issues.”

The jail employs one part-time and five full-time mental health counselors and a director of mental health, and it contracts with a psychiatrist. But when a severely mentally ill inmate won’t take medication, they lack the authority to force the issue.

The state mental hospital in Pueblo, which is supposed to take severely mentally ill inmates off the jails’ hands, has had its own problems. This year, two state officials nearly faced contempt of court charges because of the hospital’s inability to accept inmates from counties, despite court orders mandating they be treated there.

Maketa said severely mentally ill inmates who refuse treatment face long waits to get into the state hospital. The number who refuse is small, three to five a year, but growing, Maketa said.

Colorado Springs Gazette

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