COURT WATCH: Jail to State Hospital Pipeline – Another Mentally Ill Person Faces Jail Time without Mental Health Diversion

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By Kristin Trent

WOODLAND,CA – A Yolo County Superior Court this week sentenced another mentally ill man to jail time and parole for two misdemeanors and one felony without holding a discussion about the state of his mental health, usually a regularly occurring consequence of the judicial system.

The accused was sentenced to 120 days of jail time and a year of informal probation by Judge Daniel Wolk for second degree robbery of the State Foods Market, and battery and obstruction of a police officer on two separate occasions.

While California law stipulates imprisoned offenders are subject to a mental health evaluation within their first year of imprisonment, Woodland’s courtrooms have regularly failed to consider other mental health diversion options according to The Vanguard’s regular reporting on mentally ill people being charged with crimes.

Deputy Public Defender Erin Dacayman told the court only after the accused pleaded no contest that he was “unhoused, unemployed, and suffering from severe mental illness” in order to reduce fines imposed by the court, but, according to the hearing, without a request to consider mental health options instead of incarceration.

The accused is not alone in his fate, the consequences of disregarding mental health had fallen onto many of Yolo County Superior Court’s accused and have been documented in The Vanguard’s court coverage.

Last month, the Vanguard reported on a man suffering delusions who faced jail time as the result of the court’s indiscretion to evaluate his mental fitness.

In another case, a woman was held in pretrial detention in the Woodland courts with a $7,000 bail while lacking adequate mental health care as noted by her attorney according to The Vanguard.

In July, The Vanguard reported on another man resentenced to a prison despite his mental illness being exacerbated by prison conditions.

One potential explanation for the court’s repeated sentencing behavior may be the result of viewing prisons as California’s de facto mental health institutions, because incarcerations are a pipeline to state hospitals, according to Calmatters.

An alternative is treatment that does not involve jail time.

Ted Strickland, former governor of Ohio and a retired prison psychologist, spoke to the American Psychological Association about alternative court systems specifically designed to address mentally ill criminals. Modeled after drug courts, alternative courts prioritize long-term recovery over punishment.

Strickland argued, “We need to begin to change the way we deal with this problem and the way to do that is to empower communities by giving them the financial resources that will enable them to establish these specialty courts.”

The beginning of these intervention systems, dubbed “CARE courts,” kicked off Oct. 2 when California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a plan to bring the framework to life.

“It’s cheaper to provide outpatient services than to pay for their confinement in a prison but more importantly, these are human beings who are worthy of receiving appropriate interventions and treatment,” Strickland said.

About The Author

Kristin Trent recently graduated from UC Davis with a degree in English. She is currently involved in production of Davis Media Access's local radio station KDRT 95.7 FM and hosts DCTV's In The Studio Series in addition to her work for The Vanguard. Currently pursuing a full-time position as a journalist, she is deeply devoted to environmental and social justice journalism.

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