Mentally ill people are tragically overrepresented in jail and prison populations. Seemingly limitless funding for incarceration cuts most other options for treating those with mental illnesses. However, you or your loved one may be able to avoid jail or prison time by applying to be a part of Florida’s mental health diversion program, which uses other measures to help rehabilitate or treat mentally ill people who have been charged with a crime. To learn more, contact an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney today.
Jail is Not a Good Place for the Mentally Ill
According to recent research and reported by Prison Policy, 45 percent of federal inmates, 56 percent of state inmates, and 64 percent of a jail inmates have a mental health issue. Meanwhile, just 18.2 percent of all Americans have a mental health problem, according to Newsweek, which shows just where our nation’s mentally ill are ending up: incarcerated. Jail or prison usually exacerbates a mentally ill person’s symptoms; confinement and harsh punishment does not rehabilitate them, so that when they are released at the end of their term, they are much more likely to commit additional crimes.
Benefits of the Diversion Program
A mentally ill person may qualify for the diversion program if they have proof from their doctor and their condition meets the necessary guidelines. Not everyone can qualify, even if they do have a documented mental health condition. For example, someone who is suffering from atypical depression would not qualify based on that condition alone. Generally, the defendant must participate in the diversion program for at least a period of 12 months, or longer.
If the defendant is found mentally incompetent to stand trial, they cannot be tried in Florida’s court of law because they do not understand the nature of the charges or what they are facing punishment for. According to Florida statute 916.12, mental incompetency to proceed occurs when the defendant “does not have sufficient present ability to consult with her or his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding or if the defendant has no rational, as well as factual, understanding of the proceedings against her or him.” The court will employ expert witnesses to come to this conclusion, and that expert physician is actually expected to report on recommended treatment that would allow the defendant to become competent so the trial can proceed. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the average cost to the taxpayer to make a legally incompetent person “competent” to stand trial is $53,000 per defendant, showing the extreme lengths that the court will go to in order to try a mentally incompetent person for an offense.
You Need Help Battling These Charges. Contact an Experienced West Palm Beach Lawyer Today
If your loved one has a mental disorder, they may not be able to understand the charges put against them, or they may not be suited for jail or prison confinement. It is in your and their best interest to consult with the West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers of the Skier Law Firm today to learn more about your options and what path to take.