Saying the state of Washington is violating the constitutional rights of vulnerable citizens, a federal judge required the state to provide mentally ill people with competency evaluations and treatment within seven days of a state judge's order, the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman will appoint a monitor to make sure the state fixes the problem after disregarding court orders and forcing people to wait for weeks or months in jail cells for competency services. She gave the state nine months to resolve the competency crisis by hiring needed staff and providing hospital bed space.
“Our jails are not suitable places for the mentally ill to be warehoused while they wait for services,” Pechman said. “Jails are not hospitals, they are not designed as therapeutic environments, and they are not equipped to manage mental illness or keep those with mental illness from being victimized by the general population of inmates.” Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights Washington, who had filed a class-action lawsuit against the state and argued for tough action, praised the judge's ruling. “The court has made it crystal clear that the state cannot deny basic human rights to mentally ill people in jail,” said the ACLU’s La Rond Baker. Pechman blamed the state for failing to provide sufficient funding for beds at psychiatric hospitals and staff for those facilities.