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Judge: Long jail waits for mentally ill must stop

A federal judge has ordered the State of Washington to stop unconstitutionally denying mentally ill jail inmates their right to timely evaluations and treatment to determine if they are competent to stand trial.

In her sharply worded ruling, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said the state’s Department of Social and Health Services has “demonstrated a consistent pattern of intentionally disregarding court orders … and [has] established a de facto policy of ignoring court orders which conflict with [its] internal policies.”

The ACLU of Washington, Disability Rights Washington, the Public Defender Association and Carney Gillespie Isitt PLLP, which represented the plaintiffs in this class action Trueblood v. DSHS case, applauded the ruling.

“Often people with disabilities who are in local jails receive little or no mental health treatment. They are isolated with no direct human contact … for 23-24 hours a day, and all while the symptoms of their disabilities get worse. Every human being deserves better,” said Chris Carney of Carney Gillespie Isitt PLLP.

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