A grand jury in Miami-Dade County, Fl., yesterday urged lawmakers to reverse decades of failed policies toward the mentally ill that have transformed the County Jail into a costly “warehouse,” the Miami Herald reports. The grand jury listed a dozen recommendations to improve the lot of mentally ill people in Miami-Dade’s criminal justice system. Its most emphatic suggestion: Police should continue to use controversial Taser stun guns to subdue volatile suspects without resorting to lethal force.
Since last spring, the 21-member grand jury has traced the mentally disabled’s path from hostile confrontations with police to barren jail cells –stripped of sheets and mattresses to prevent suicide — through court hearings and psychological reviews that leave the sick in custody eight times longer than other Dade defendants. “We do not believe that persons who are sick have to go to jail before they can receive treatment for their illness,” the grand jury said. Addressing the problem would require action from the state legislature. Rep. Dan Gelber said the current practice “costs more and endangers the lives of citizens and police in a way that makes very little sense.” He said reforms are one of the few areas of broad agreement between Republicans and Democrats.