High costs of jailing and treating mentally ill defendants reported

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SEATTLE (AP) — Holding mentally ill defendants in jails while they await competency services is costing cities and counties across the state of Washington millions of dollars.  That’s according to state officials who collected the data in response to a court order.

A report submitted to a federal judge by the state’s Behavioral Health Administration found that over a six-month period, jails spent almost $1.7 million to house defendants waiting for competency evaluations.

The cost of jailing defendants waiting for treatment to restore their competency totaled almost $1.4 million.

It’s been a year since a federal judge said the state was violating the constitutional rights of mentally ill people charged with crimes by forcing them to wait in jails for weeks or months for competency services.  She ordered the state to fix its system so the services happen within seven days of a judge’s order.

The report reveals how far out of compliance the state continues to be and what that’s costing county jails.