Texas officials say they can’t obey a court order forcing them to move more than 150 mentally incompetent prisoners to psychiatric hospitals by June 1 because they don’t have enough space, staff or money to do so, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The Texas attorney general’s office has asked District Judge Orlinda Naranjo to review her January decision forcing the Department of State Health Services to start moving all current “forensic commitments” to state psychiatric hospitals. All such prisoners who arrive after June 1 would have to be moved to a psychiatric hospital within 21 days of a judge’s order.
Complying with the court order would cost between $39 million and $55.2 million, according to a motion for a new trial filed by the attorney general’s office this month. “The short timelines set forth in the court’s order makes it physically, fiscally and logistically impossible for DSHS to comply and indicates a lack of appreciation for the magnitude of the task and the complications inherent in implementing the terms of the order,” the state wrote in its motion. The attorney general has also appealed the ruling with the state’s 3rd Court of Appeals. Naranjo’s ruling stemmed from a 2007 lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Texas, a federally funded organization that is an advocate for people with disabilities, including mental illness. Over the past two years, the average prisoner spent six months in jail waiting for a hospital bed, Naranjo wrote in her order.