Coloradans who are declared incompetent to proceed in court have long faced a catch-22 in the criminal justice system that leaves them languishing in jails or state hospitals for months, sometimes even years, before they have ever been convicted of a crime.
New laws, Senate bills 222 and 223, are intended to streamline the process of determining competency and hold the state accountable for moving people through the system without massive backlogs. They also demand that the state figure out how to address some of the much deeper problems that have swept these people up in the criminal justice system in the first place.
“The criminal justice system has become the de facto place to take care of people with mental illnesses. As a society we don’t understand mental illness very well; the way people behave can be frightening…We put them in jail because there’s nowhere else for them to go.”