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Disability Law Center Sues State Agencies Connected to Mentally Ill Inmates


The Disability Law Center, along with a group of individual plaintiffs, has filed a class action lawsuit against the Utah State Hospital, the Department of Human Services and a state mental health agency. The suit claims the system allows those entities to force vulnerable criminal defendants to languish in jail for a minimum of 90 days while waiting for treatment to become competent to stand trial. Aaron Kinikini is the legal director of the Disability Law Center.

“People with mental illness that haven’t been convicted of a crime and that are too ill to stand trial, shouldn’t be subjected to waiting periods of that long,” Kinikini says, “The waiting period for our perspective should be measured in hours and days not months and months and months.”

Kinikini says the number in this group of inmates has doubled every year for 3 years; totaling 50 so far this year. 

“The suffering that’s taking placing in the county jails is real. These inmates are very vulnerable. They tend to produce some discipline problems because they don’t necessarily understand or are able to conform to the carrot and stick philosophy in the jails.”

A statement issued by the Utah Department of Human Services spokeswoman Heather Barnum says the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and the Utah State Hospital promote health, treat illness and support recovery - and they’re always reviewing the quality of care, prevention and treatment services. Barnum says the Utah Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the complaint.

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