A Florida judge threatened the state Department of Children & Families with thousands of dollars a day in fines if it does not begin taking in mentally ill county jail inmates as required by law, reports the Associated Press. Florida law requires the agency to move county jail inmates found incompetent to stand trial to treatment facilities within 15 days. But law enforcement officials and inmate lawyers from around the state say DCF’s inaction has left many languishing in jail for months.
In one of the toughest rulings on the issue, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell said he will fine the agency $1,000 per day for each mentally ill inmate who remains in the Pinellas jail longer than 15 days. He may also require placement in more expensive private treatment facilities. ”This type of arrogant activity cannot be tolerated in an orderly society,” Farnell wrote in a ruling in favor of public defenders representing several inmates. Farnell set a Nov. 16 hearing to check on DCF’s progress. There are now about 30 mentally ill inmates in the Pinellas jail who should have been moved to state mental health facilities.