Redirecting Incompetent Inmates


This week, house members are reviewing a bill aimed at helping mentally ill persons who end up in prison. The idea is to re-direct them to community care and provide needed services before they end up in the court system.

The number of suspects adjudicated incompetent for trial in Florida has doubled in just the last four years according to a report by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

Florida is spending an additional $48 million just for 300 beds in a state forensic hospital says Miami-Dade Judge Steve Leifman. He led a task force that studied the problem and recommended building three community-based programs to handle incompetent offenders.

'It will provide trauma services. It'll provide intensive case management services. It will link people up for housing. It will make sure they're taking the right medication,' Leifman said.

The belief is, if strong community care is provided, it will keep people with persistent mental illness out of the courts and jails.

The three pilot programs would cost $8 million. The community care systems would be set up in the counties that send the most incompetent inmates to the state forensic hospital. Leifman says they are Miami-Dade, Broward and Escambia counties.

He says the current house bill provides the funding, but a senate version does not.

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