Atlanta Jailers: We’re Mental Case Dumping Ground

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Hoyt Jenkins wasn’t supposed to be in the DeKalb County, Ga., Jail when he died, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In March, after a psychologist found him “delusional” and “actively psychotic,” a judge ordered the inmate transferred to a state mental hospital. County jailers didn’t know about the judge’s order. Jenkins, 71, remained behind bars for three more months. On Wednesday morning, he was beaten to death. A 24-year-old jailed on a minor drug charge is accused of his murder.

The case illustrates a bureaucratic bottleneck well known to sheriffs, prosecutors, and defense lawyers around Georgia. Judges are ordering more defendants than ever to undergo evaluations or treatment by a state mental health system that is strapped by budget cuts and overcrowding. Yesterday, 67 inmates at county jails across Georgia were waiting for a “secure mental health bed.” After Jenkins’ death, Superior Court judges in DeKalb County ordered the state to immediately accept at least a dozen inmates who had been on the waiting list. Officials at Atlanta-area jails say their lockups have become dumping grounds for mental patients because state facilities cannot take them in. “I’ve had to turn down emergency admissions when I had a raving lunatic,” said Gary Lancaster, Gwinnett County’s jail administrator. “The jails are full of mental health patients,” said Terry Norris, spokesman for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.


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