A San Luis Obispo County judge may not have the jurisdiction to fine the California Department of State Hospitals for failing to place mentally ill inmates in a timely manner.
According to attorney Ken Cirisana, during a hearing Thursday, a spokesperson for the California Department of State Hospitals said the department is not a "person" and therefore cannot be fined.
Judge Ginger Garrett had threatened the sanction back in April on behalf of 11 mentally ill inmates in the SLO County Jail who had been awaiting transfers to state hospitals. Six are now being represented in this case. Their attorneys argued some inmates waited months to be transferred while not getting proper treatment for their illnesses in county jail.
"These guys languish there with no treatment and they get worse. If you take someone who is suffering from schizophrenia and isolate them, it just compounds the problem and it makes it a lot harder to bring them back into competency," Cirisan, attorney for Kyle Kaiser, said during last month’s hearing, which was continued after the state failed to get paperwork to the inmates’ attorneys in a timely manner.
Judge Garrett ordered the attorneys to file a brief on the matter by June 29, proving the state can be fined, Cirisan said.
The state has until July 13 to respond. Judge Garrett will make her ruling on July 26.
Cirisan says all 11 inmates have since been placed in state hospitals.
The high-profile death of Andrew Holland is unrelated to this court proceeding but does highlight the need for inmates to get proper treatment. Holland, diagnosed with schizophrenia, died in the jail last year after being placed in a restraint chair for 46 hours while awaiting transfer to county mental health.