Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Senate tackles police restraints of mentally ill, disabled students

The Texas Tribune brings word of a couple of notable bills on police restraints that passed the Senate. First,
A bill by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would still allow law enforcement officers to detain a mentally ill patient in a jail in case of an emergency, but clarifies that “time and convenience” do not constitute one. Only if a hospital bed or other appropriate facility is more than 75 miles away can a mentally ill person be detained in jail, and then, at most, for 12 hours. The intent of the bill is to prevent jail suicides. According to the bill analysis, more than half of jail suicides occur within the first 24 hours of incarceration.
Those timellines add some urgency to jails' need to evaluate incoming inmates' mental health needs and get them to a provider.

The other bill, reports the Trib's Becca Aaronson, requires extra training of school-based police officers for dealing with kids with disabilites:
The second bill, by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, would require peace officers working for school districts to receive special training in how to properly restrain children, particularly physically and mentally disabled children.

Existing law requires all school employees to be properly trained in restraining physically or mentally disabled children, but it specifically excludes police officers. Davis said this creates confusion over whether peace officers hired by school districts, who are often called on to restrain disabled children, have proper training.
Zaffirini's bill probably will have a more immediate impact, but it's impressive that there's enough bipartisan interest in police restraints in the Senate - where 21 votes are needed to bring legislation to the floor - for these bills to clear the upper chamber.

11 comments:

Prison Doc said...

The longer I work in jails and prisons the more convinced I become that they are no place for the mentally ill. That being said, I am not sure how much good Zaffirini's bill will do for suicides...plenty of jail suicides occur among folks with no history of major mental illness, but rather are overwhelmed by what they consider a hopeless social, family, or business situation and see death as the only way out....

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I have to be ok with it if that's the best the lege can come up with. In the meantime Senator Zaffirini, you be sure and tell those judges and case workers to come right on out when we call on holidays and weekends. Better yet, how about making it a criminal offense when the judge or caseworker refuses to come out?

Mentally ill people do not need to be detained on some trumped up criminal charge just so they can be held for protective custody.

When will the state of Texas ever learn?

Audrey said...

Having a special needs child, it upsets me greatly that a police officer would ever touch him. The law has no business in his business.

Not long ago my husband observed police brutality...they pulled a young man off the McKinney bus ("C-Cart") as he was trying to get on, saying he was acting drunk. In fact what he has is cerebal palsy and struggles to walk. He was thrown on the ground and held down by the police. It took several bystanders, including the bus driver, to explain repeatedly that he was physically and mentally challenged and should be let go. Very sad state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

i have come to the conclusion that ALL officers should be REQUIRED to complete the 40 hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) course. Besides learning how to deal with mental illness problems on the street, the training carries over to other types of disturbance calls. Shame Whitmere or another legislature type doesn't push the idea. Would save many a shooting death. Much more valuable than the current mandated 16 hour training...as told to me by a trained HPD officer. :~)

Anonymous said...

08:33 & Prison Doc hit the nail on the head!

Remember the history of mental health treatment for these persons? "inhumane" treatment caused them to be removed from "mental hospitals".
They then became "homeless" or "street" people.

Local governments did not like these people to be on the streets in their community. The solution to their problem: make the police (in reality the crimial justice and social services systems), deal with them.

How are we "dealing" with these people? Taking them to ovecrowded jails to be processed and supervised by local jailers until a "qualified person" can make a disposition decision. Of course the jailers are all licensed, degreed, ceritified, Mental Health Care Professionals making at least $20,000.00! Right?

Retired 2004

Woodsy said...

Anonymous 8:33, what actually caused these people to be put in prison as opposed to receiving mental health treatment at hospitals was the deinstitutionalization beginning in the 1960's, when funding for mental health facilities was slashed by Congress. Since then, funding for police, protection, and prisons has increased 10-15 times, depending on the area of the country. The ironic part--as I mention in most of my comments--is that it was those claiming to be "conservative" who were behind this effort. Yet, it costs a whole hell of a lot more to address these issues on the back-end--by hiring more cops, building more prisons, backlogging the judicial branch, etc...-- than it does to address them on the front-end. Not so much a conservative move after all. Yet, there are some people in this world who, when you show them how 2+2=4, they refute it based on their belief system, tell you the answer is 5, discontinue the conversation, and leave. These are the people we need to get the heck out of the Texas Legislature and Congress.

Hook Em Horns said...

Good post Prison Doc. I agree.

Anonymous said...

IT may sound harsh but the sooner we stop playing feel-good games with persons dealing with these "issues" the sooner some of these problems may be better addressed.

Some students will never be an astronaut or a doctor, yet public schools dont want to say that so the person spends 12 years of school having ARD after Ard and instead of learning a trade and other skills to help in thier independance, they "learn" how the rest of the world make accommodations for thier special issue.
Then on thier 17th birthday they act as they always have but find themselves in the county jail instead of having a social ARD about thier behavior.
There are millions of people with an equally large number of serious problems, we have the research to explain to parents, here is what the future is like and lets stop playing like little Johnny will some day walk on the moon and start teaching right now how amazing it will be when he walks into BurgerKing and works towards true indendance.

Anonymous said...

All states be it prison or local jails are having the same issues. Perhaps this will open the door to moving on to the national level for rules and regulation oversight. Accountability is lacking in most jails/prisons.

Audrey said...

To Anonymous on 4/22 @ 10:42 - My example of the young man getting on the bus...that is exactly what he was doing riding the bus to go to and from work. The police who threw him down and held him, once he understood, didn't even bother to help him up or apologize...he just walked away, left him laying on the paved parking lot, bleeding. That's sick.

As for your generalities about people with special needs and ARD meetings...it is obvious you have very little knowledge about the subject. Ignorance is bliss, isn't it? Perhaps you could talk to the FDA and drug companies about providing safe immunizations before mass innoculating everybody. That would be a start in responsible government.

Perhaps some day your life will be graced with a special needs child or grandchild and then you will have a change of heart as you scramble to protect him or her.

Anonymous said...

Audrey:
I think what anonymous of 4/22/11 was saying is that ARD committees not only need to address good accommodations for special needs children, the committees also need to set goals to TEACH special needs students appropriate, or replacement behaviors for their inappropriate behaviors. I happen to have a child with autism, and this is truly where the public school failed my child. If you have good goals and concrete ways to EVALUATE whether or not your child is making progress, then you can show if what the school is doing is working or not. And, if the behavior isn't changing, it's not working.
I think we need to have high expectations for all students, even those with special needs. The goals for these children need to be realistic, in keeping with their abilities and diagnoses.
The goal isn't simply to keep special needs children out of jail, although that is a great goal to start with. The goal is to teach them how to function within society, as best as they are able to. For some, yes, that may be working at Burger King. For others, college.