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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Standoff Between Judges and Govt Official Over Mentally Ill Inmates

From NYTimes.com: For years, circuit judges here have ordered state officials to obey Florida law and promptly transfer severely mentally ill inmates from jails to state hospitals. But with few hospital beds available, Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration began flouting those court orders in August.

Now, in a growing standoff between the government of Florida and its judges, the state is being threatened with steep daily fines if it does not comply. And at least one judge has raised the possibility that the secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families could go to jail for contempt of court.

State law requires that inmates found incompetent to stand trial be moved from county jails to psychiatric hospitals within 15 days of the state’s receiving the commitment orders. Florida has broken that law for years, provoking some public defenders to seek court orders forcing swift compliance.

With the state now rebuffing even those orders, a rising number of mentally ill inmates, now more than 300, have been left without treatment in crowded jails because the state’s 1,416 psychiatric beds are full. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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