Friday, 31 March 2023

Wiggins' SB 568 advances to Assembly Floor

SACRAMENTO – The Assembly Appropriations Committee has voted to approve SB 568, a bill by Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to allow county jail facilities to provide medications to defendants with mental illnesses so the defendants can stand trial.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate, will soon be voted on by the full Assembly.

Existing law provides that if a defendant is found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial or “IST,” the trial or judgment is suspended until the IST defendant is restored to mental competency. Existing law also requires the county sheriff to take the IST defendant to a state hospital or treatment facility in order to restore the defendant to competency.

If an IST defendant has been accused of committing a felony offense, involving great bodily harm or another serious crime, the law allows the defendant to be involuntarily medicated in a mental hospital or facility.

Unfortunately, it can take up to six months from the date a defendant is determined to be incompetent until the time they are moved to a treatment facility due to a shortage of suitable beds.

“This is an unfortunate situation for all parties – the defendant with a mental condition, the sheriff subjected to a defendant who can refuse medications or treatment in a jail facility, and other individuals who are incarcerated along with the mentally ill defendant,” Wiggins said.

If SB 568 becomes law, counties would be allowed (following a required court hearing) to medicate defendants diagnosed as mentally ill and found by a judge or jury, in concurrence with the county board of supervisors, the county mental health director, sheriff and chief of corrections, to be incompetent to stand trial.

The bill also requires the evaluating psychiatrist to determine whether a defendant could be effectively medicated and restored to competency in a jail, and requires the Department of Mental Health to report to the Legislature the number of IST defendants currently in the system and the resources available for treatment.

During the past year, 28 mentally ill defendants spent an average of 56 days incarcerated in the Sonoma County jail while awaiting transfer to an inpatient unit or state hospital – at a cost to the county of $246,000.

"The reality is, more and more mentally ill are being housed in jails, which by definition are not treatment facilities,” Wiggins said. “This bill serves as an interim measure and the county jails have assured me they have no intention of becoming permanent mental hospitals.”

SB 568 is supported by the California Psychiatric Association, the California Mental Health Directors Association, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, California State Association of Counties, the California Sheriff’s association and many other county sheriffs’ offices throughout the state.

Visit Wiggins' Web site at


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