Every year judges order hundreds of Colorado defendants to undergo exams to determine whether they are mentally competent to stand trial, says the Denver Post. The use of such evaluations is soaring, stalling even routine cases for months, straining judicial budgets and highlighting the continued use of jails and prisons as substitutes for mental health treatment. Experts say the increase mirrors national trends.
The number of mental-competency evaluations of criminal defendants has more than doubled in the past decade, even though criminal charges being filed have dropped by 19 percent. Drifting in the middle of the price tags and debates, criminal defendants — many of whom face charges for nonviolent offenses — must navigate their way through the widening nexus of mental health and criminal justice. Some defense attorneys worry that the increasingly high demand for the reports is causing “fly-by evaluations.”