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MN Judge Sends HIV-Positive Prisoner to Psych Hospital, Blasts System that Jails Mentally Ill

A Minnesota judge in April 2012 blamed political indifference for a justice system that warehouses the mentally-ill in county jails and ultimately led to a guard's death 10 weeks after he fought with a schizophrenic prisoner.

Judge Jay Quam, the presiding judge of the Hennepin County Mental Health and Probate Court, made his opinions known within a written order indefinitely committing Den-es Laquan King, 24, to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.

King, who was born HIV-Positive and suffers from a dozen psychiatric disorders, bit a 50-year­old Hennepin County jail guard's leg after fighting with the guard because King didn't get a spoon with his meal.

Bradley Berntson, a jail sergeant and supervisor, died weeks later from what a medical examiner officially called "acute alcohol toxicity," though it is believed that Berntson suffered a fatal reaction to medications he took to avoid HIV-infection.

“While they are sitting in jail, (mental ly ill) prisoners often recede further into the depths of their illness," Quam wrote. "They present a danger to themselves: they present a danger to their fellow (prisoners): and they present a danger to the good men and women who run the jails.”

Quam said there's been a significant increase in Hennepin County mental health cases referred from criminal courts. ln 2011, there were 92 cases referred, nearly triple the 34 referrals back in 1998.

Jail personnel should be allowed to make referrals themselves, Quam said, when they believe a prisoner is mentally ill. He also recommended that competency and commitment evaluations should be streamlined into a shorter, more efficient process—with one judge ruling on both issues—so that mentally-ill prisoners will more quickly be mandated to receive treatment or medication.

"Changes are necessary to protect the (prisoners) themselves, get treatment for mentally-ill people and protect the innocent," Quam said. The question is whether or not people have the political will to implement them...

Source: www.

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