Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Waiting for competency - for 23 years?

Almost 10 months after he allegedly killed his brother, Eryk Drej has been declared competent to stand trial in Utah.

It took almost 10 years for Joseph Guendulain, accused of killing his roommate, to be found competent to stand trial in Washington state.

Carolyn McDonald spent 23 years in an Indiana psychiatric facility waiting to be found competent to stand trial for the murder of her sister – she pled guilty and was finally sentenced this week.

Which is the greater burden on civil liberties and society?

#1. Society does nothing until someone who is psychotic commits a crime, then we lock them in a hospital - or a jail cell - until they are deemed competent to stand trial. Sometimes that takes years, sometimes decades. It is all on the taxpayers’ dime, and all contingent on the person first deteriorating enough to commit a crime to trigger the whole process.

#2. Society court-orders someone with a severe mental illness who meets very specific criteria to receive treatment in the community, before a crime is committed. They stay out of an institution. They get the treatment they need. They can be restored to the point of again making informed treatment decisions. They get their life back.

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