Thursday, June 7, 2007

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Its NORMAL Policies for Dealing with Inmates with Mental Illness (Paris Hilton excluded)

From the LASD's own web site, here's some of what they say on their "Mental Illness" page ([a] step-by-step guide to help families cope with the criminal justice system in Los Angeles County when a family member who suffers from a brain disorder (mental illness) is arrested).

If he/she is already at the Inmate Reception Center at the downtown Los Angeles County Jail, he/she will be screened for mental illness, as well as other health concerns, upon arrival. It is very important that they be direct and honest to benefit as much as possible from this screening process. Assure your family member that it is OK to discuss his/her physical and mental condition, diagnosis, medications, etc., with the staff conducting the screening, which includes Sheriff’s nursing staff and Jail Mental Health Service staff. It is important your family member feels safe to speak openly with the mental health screeners....

Immediately prepare a fax requesting that your relative be screened for placement in the mental health unit. Begin this fax with your relative’s:
- Full legal name
- Date of birth
- Booking number
- Location

In the body of the fax include:
- His/her diagnosis
- His/her psychiatrist’s name, phone number, and address
- The medications that are prescribed for your family member by name, dosage, and time of day to be administered
- Whether a particular medication has proven to be ineffective or has dangerous and/or uncomfortable side effects
- Any history of suicide attempts/threats or other violent intentions in the recent past. Briefly describe the events and when they occurred....

Call the Mental Health Court Program of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health at 626-403-4370 during regular business hours. The program’s caseworker may assist the defense attorney, prosecutor, and the judge in implementing an alternative sentence to a mental health treatment facility rather than incarceration in a jail or prison. This program is available free of charge.

So the usual expectation is that if someone with mental illness is in the County Jail, they stay there.

Boy, do they stay there. The Mental Health Consensus Project decries the fact that inmates with mental illness stay in jail LONGER than other inmates.

A study found that the Los Angeles County Jail and Riker's Island (New York City) each held more people with mental illnesses than the largest psychiatric inpatient facilities in the United States.

Note that's "held," not "reassigned." Here are some more statistics of local interest:

In California, the rate of jail suicides in 2001 was 4.5 times greater than the rate in the general population....

90 percent of Los Angeles County jail inmates with mental illness are repeat offenders; an estimated 31 percent have been incarcerated 10 or more times.

Sounds like Lee Baca's got some explaining to do about Paris Hilton's house arrest for medical reasons. It doesn't sound like that's the usual procedure, despite what Steve Whitmore said. I wonder if Charles Sophy's (former?) status as a county official had something to do with this.

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