ProPublica, December 28, 2017
Sarah Smith, photos by Mike Belleme

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[...] Tyler didn’t fall through any cracks. Mississippi didn’t lose track of him. A review of available records suggests that Mississippi may well have the worst record of any state for prolonged stays in jail for inmates awaiting the most basic psychiatric evaluation.

A copy of the state’s wait list shows that as of August 2017, 102 defendants — accused, but not yet convicted, of various crimes — were waiting in county jails for forensic evaluations. One had waited 1,249 days, another 1,173 days, still another 879.

The struggle to evaluate defendants who may be mentally ill isn’t just a Mississippi problem. In response to a 2014 survey by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, 31 of 40 states said wait times for forensic services for criminal defendants were worsening and 19 said they’d been threatened with legal action or found in contempt of court for long delays.

No other state, though, approaches Mississippi’s record for delays. [...]

bioethics criminal law human rights mental health pediatrics public health