Saturday, September 29, 2012

Did you know?

By: Robert Friedman, Attorney with the Department of Public Advocacy in Lexington, Kentucky

Did you know? I didn’t think so. Neither do many law enforcement officers.
KRS 202A.251 Prohibition against detention in jail without criminal charges pending --Criminal charges not to be placed to avoid transportation.

No person held under the provisions of this chapter shall be detained in jail unless criminal charges are also pending. No peace officer or any other person shall place criminal charges against a person who is mentally ill and in need of hospitalization pursuant to this chapter solely or primarily for the purpose of avoiding transporting the person to a hospital or psychiatric facility.

This is the law, but it it widely disregarded. A lot of police officers are simply unaware of it. A few just wink at it and take persons with mental illness to jail.

Here’s the “cash value”: if the officer knows the person is mentally ill and thinks he/she might be dangerous, the officer cannot legally place charges without taking the person for a psych exam first. 

People need to demand that the police observe the law ... probation officers, too. If your elected officials turn away when you bring it up, vote the crooks out!
Otherwise, people with serious, chronic, mental illnesses—schizophrenia, bipolar I, schizoaffective disorder—end up getting arrested for petty garbage—criminal trespass 3rd, disorderly conduct—and taken to jail. 

This is both cruel to person with mental illness and costly to the public. (Jail ain’t cheap to the taxpayers, nor should it be.) We don’t have to change the law to do better. We just have to know it and observe it.

Note: "These are my views, and I am not speaking on behalf of the DPA."  ~ Robert Friedman


  1. Cruel...but all too common. My mentally ill loved one has been arrested repeatedly. Recently I filed a mental health petition to try to get her treatment and I called to report her whereabouts so that she could be picked up and taken to the hospital. She was picked up at my house and the officers assured me that she would be taken to ESH. They must have made a wrong turn on the way to the hospital because she was taken to jail that night instead. Several times I have been encouraged by police officers to press charges against her for behavior that is a direct result of her illness. The prevailing attitude seems to be that people with mental illness behave in disruptive or dangerous ways out of spite or meanness, and not because their brains are not working properly. And, even if the officer is aware of the law and knows that the person concerned is ill, they can usually take the person to jail if they choose. Unfortunately, by the time a situation is far enough gone for law enforcement to be involved it is seldom too far a stretch to find a criminal charge that can be brought. And if our laws were more supportive of us in getting our loved ones treatment in the first place...this would not even be an issue.

  2. Re: "People need to demand that the police observe the law ... probation officers, too."

    Unfortunately many people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder do not have insight about their illness. They are not likely to say, 'I am mentally ill, please take me to the hospital instead of jail.'

    Re: "if the officer knows the person is mentally ill and thinks he/she might be dangerous, the officer cannot legally place charges without taking the person for a psych exam first." Maybe police officers do need to be educated! Disorderly conduct is a jail-worthy charge, but I do not think it fits the dangerous parameter. There are so many loopholes... like the danger to himself or others required for involuntary admission to a mental health facility.

    1. A good 40% of people with hard-core, chronic mental illnesses don't have much insight. So it's up to the rest of us to insist that they not be abused.

      As for B misdemeanors being jail-worthy ... HA: HA! HA!HA! HA! HA! Lexingtonians want to lock people up but don't want to pay for it, so medical and psychiatric treatment at the jail ranges from malpractice to torture. Disorderyl conduct is an open invitation to subjectivity and prejudice by inexperienced street officers--which they freely exercise according to the prejudices they have not yet recognized. I recently witnessed a judge excoriating a defendant for uttering a few curse words at the police. In federal court, that's called "political speech," and is entitled to a high degree of protections. That's the law, but it's routinely ignored by the authorities here. Of course there are loopholes. (In Lexington, the criminal justice system is rife with institutional and joyous oppression of the mentally ill. In Lexington, the law is routinely ignored when it advantages the down and out. What are you doing to change that?) A decent society depends upon upon both objective and subjective good faith by the authorities. If they won't exercise it, we need to throw them out.

    2. What can be done to change behaviors that show objective and subjective bad faith by police officers against the mentally ill? In Lexington, the justice system seems set on some standard of respect for the police even when they behave disrespectfully. When there is a disturbance, is jail the place to take adults experiencing senility, Alzeimers, as well as those with other mental illnesses?

    3. That's right. Judges, prosecutors and all sorts of other people slavishly kowtow to police judgment ... which is often unconstitutionally bad. But it is business as usual, and business as usual is what people in Fayette County value above all else. People need to look at police decisions with a critical eye and demand that they observe the law. If they won't, why should any of the rest of us? They routinely speak abusively to the foreign-born, to people of color and people who are mentally ill, provoke well-justified violence with their arrogance and Tombstone courage, and turn around and charge their victims with felonies. What can be done? Vote most of the incumbents out. Publicly expose their moral turpitude and bigotry. Too many of our law enforcement officers have raging untreated PTSD, or steroid habits, and are decorated for acting upon it instead of being helped for it. Our law enforcement bosses are incompetent. This is why we need the Second Amendment.