Nonviolent mentally ill defendants can now seek treatment to regain competency – the ability to help their attorneys with their defense – on an outpatient basis instead of waiting four to six months in the Dallas County Jail for a bed at a state hospital where they are stabilized enough to assist in their cases, reports the Dallas Morning News.
Last year, the pilot program saved the county $300,000 by not housing the defendants in jail, said Judge Doug Skemp. He said it provides resources and treatment while those charged with crimes get healthy enough to face the justice system. The judge, standing in the role of stern and concerned father, holds what he calls the carrot and the hammer over defendants. The carrot is the promise of treatment in the real world with the hope of getting better. The hammer is jail. “You’ve got to have a hammer and a carrot,” Skemp said. “If you don’t have a carrot, the hammer won’t work.” The judge said those in the outpatient program are not charged with many new crimes. “We are not seeing them come back as often as those who go through hospitalization,” he said.