The new head of Florida’s Department of Children & Families, Bob Butterworth, says his agency will stop fighting and start cooperating with advocates trying to end the practice of allowing mentally ill inmates to languish in jail in violation of state law, reports the Associated Press. A settlement approved yesterday ends all legal fighting, clears a former official of contempt charges and transfers a court-imposed $80,000 fine to a pilot program to treat the mentally ill in jail.
Butterworth cited a state plan that should get a backlog of more than 200 mentally ill inmates out of jail and into treatment facilities before June 30. One inmate gouged out an eye and another blinded himself while awaiting transfer. ”Different breed of cat entirely,” said Judge Crockett Farnell about Butterworth and new Gov. Charlie Crist. I was taken aback by some of the things our past governor said. This is a great thing for the state of Florida and for people who have suffered.” The settlement was possible because a joint legislative committee approved $16.6 million to create more than 350 new treatment beds around the state.