News Article Details

Judge: State delays for mentally ill inmates a burden for jails

Pantagraph - 4/4/2017

April 04--BLOOMINGTON -- Delays in the placement of mentally ill inmates in state hospitals shifts the burden for their care to county jails and denies defendants their right to a timely psychiatric evaluation, a McLean County judge said Monday after hearing that a woman has been waiting in jail for more than a month for a bed at a Springfield facility.

Anita Jumper was found not guilty by reason of insanity on Feb. 28 of the 2015 arson of her Bloomington apartment. State law requires that the 58-year-old be transferred to McFarland Mental Health Center in Springfield for an evaluation that will be used to develop a treatment plan for her.

Jumper refused to leave her jail cell for a hearing Monday, according to defense lawyer Jennifer Patton.

Patton told Judge Scott Drazewski that the Illinois Department of Human Services has asked for an extension of its 30-day deadline to submit a report on Jumper's treatment.

The judge noted that he recently received a similar request for an extension in another case.

The state facility has a limited number of beds available, said Drazewski, "but this is putting the burden back on the county jails."

Longer waits in jail are not in compliance with state law, said the judge.

"Something needs to occur so the rights of the individuals under the statutes are being afforded to them," said Drazewski.

A May 12 hearing is scheduled to review a placement plan for Jumper -- if her transfer and an evaluation are completed.

The flexibility to postpone compliance with the requirements of the law is not always offered to county jails, said the judge, citing notices IDHS sends to the county when an inmate has finished treatment and needs to be returned to jail.

As more mentally ill people cycle into jails, it's not uncommon for counties to be holding inmates beyond the 30 days the state has to file its treatment plan for inmates with behavioral health issues.

Not all mentally ill inmates are forced to wait in jail for a bed at McFarland.

Brian Petersen went from the McLean County courtroom to the Springfield hospital after a Feb. 27 finding that he was insane at the time he killed his parents, Nancy and Bruce Petersen. The 26-year-old also was allowed to stay at McFarland for ongoing treatment for almost all of the seven months his case was pending.

When asked in January by The Pantagraph why McFarland staff asked that Petersen remain in the facility that is chronically short of beds for treatment, an agency representative said such requests are rare and are made when doctors believe an extended stay is in the best interest of the defendant's care.

An April 21 hearing is scheduled to review the state's recommendation for Petersen's long-term treatment.

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(c)2017 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)

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