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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lawsuit accuses state of Colorado of long delays in providing mental health evaluations - The Denver Post

Lawsuit accuses state of Colorado of long delays in providing mental health evaluations - The Denver Post

Defendants incompetent to stand trial are waiting months — sometimes longer than likely sentences for their alleged crimes — for mental health evaluations and treatment because of a backlog at the state hospital in Pueblo.

A new lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court accuses the state of warehousing mentally ill detainees in county jails, alleges civil rights violations and asks a judge to order much shorter wait times.

It's the second time in five years that advocates have asked a court to speed up the line into the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo for people accused of crimes.

As budgets have stagnated or inched lower, the number of people in need of mental health intervention as they drift through the criminal justice system has risen more sharply than the state expected.

Defense attorney Iris Eytan, who filed the lawsuit on Aug. 31, said budget woes may be a reality, but they're no excuse.

"You can't use the budget crisis to justify violating people's constitutional rights. You don't dump the problem on the most-disenfranchised population in Colorado," Eytan said. "You fix it. You saw this coming. We sued you five years ago."

People charged with crimes have a right to understand the charges against them and participate in their own defense.

When in doubt, a judge can order a defendant to undergo a psychological evaluation. Those can be done as defendants wait in jail, at the state mental hospital in Pueblo or in the community.

If defendants are found incompetent, a court orders the state hospital to treat them until they're ready for trial.

The lawsuit lists examples of people who have waited as long as six months between an order for evaluation and when they were finally admitted to the state hospital.

In the meantime, they sat in jail.

Eytan is asking a federal judge to require the state Department of Human Services, the agency that oversees the hospital, to limit waits to seven days each for evaluation and admission.

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