- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - California officials are leaving mentally ill or disabled criminal defendants to languish in jail for months before getting them required treatment, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

The lawsuit in Alameda County names the Department of State Hospitals and Department of Developmental Services as defendants.

The suit concerns defendants who have been declared incompetent to stand trial because of a mental disorder or developmental disability. Those defendants sometimes wait months in jail before they are admitted to a facility where they can be treated, and conditions in jail often worsen their conditions and place them in danger, according to the lawsuit.

Department of State Hospitals spokesman Ralph Montano said the department had not seen the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation.

But the state has made significant efforts to provide increased mental health evaluation and treatment for defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial, including adding nearly 200 additional hospital beds over two years in 2013 and 2014, he said.

According to the ACLU’s lawsuit, 366 defendants deemed incompetent were awaiting admission to the Department of State Hospitals as of February 9, some of them having been in jail for more than five months.

The average wait time for the previous 25 people admitted as of February 9 was more than 75 days, according to the suit.

Plaintiffs include the mother of a defendant who was declared incompetent in 2012 and raped multiple times in jail while he awaited transfer for months to a treatment facility, according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims violations of constitutional guarantees of due process and a speedy trial. It calls for an injunction ordering the state to admit defendants deemed incompetent to a treatment facility within a “constitutionally permissible time.”

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