Incompetent defendent jailed despite court order

Posted at 2:13 PM, Mar 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 14:13:44-05
A man found incompetent to stand trial is finally getting the mental health treatment he needs, but only after spending months in jail for a property crime.
The ABC Action News I-Team has learned he's far from the only person in this situation.
When mentally ill or people with low IQs are charged with crimes, they're often found incompetent to stand trial and sent to local or state hospitals, where they're offered help.
But as one local man has learned, help doesn't often come quickly.
“He's been tested. You see his IQ score is 60, 52, 52,” Andrea Hairston, describing her son, Christoming.
Her son has dealt with intellectual challenges and mental illness since he was born 26 years ago.
“He hears voices, he changes his voice,” she said.
On Nov. 9, it came to a head when she drove him to Memorial Hospital to try to get him help after he tried to jump out of a moving car.
“He just started going off again. He started just kicking chairs and knocking stuff over,” said Hairston.
Cops were called and Hairston was arrested on a charge of criminal mischief for damaging furniture.
“I thought they were going to take him to Baker Act him, but they arrested him, and I'm like, ‘Why is he going to jail?’” Hairston said.
Doctors examined him and found him incompetent in December. The judge ordered him to the locked Forensic Treatment program at Gracepont.
But because of a lack of facilities, he's been waiting in jail for more than three months.
“He shouldn't be in jail with other jail people,” Hairston said.
“That's not a real black and white decision sometimes,” said Gracepoint Director Joe Rutherford.
He said he doesn't second-guess police, but he says more services are needed locally for mentally ill people who are not competent to stand trial.
He said since Florida ranks 49th in the nation in mental health spending, treatment programs like his are underfunded and usually have waiting lists.
“You'll pay a lot more for those same individuals to be in the jails or in the hospital emergency rooms,” said Rutherford.
Hairston  finally went to Gracepoint on Tuesday, 117 days after being arrested for damaging furniture.
“They need some attention. They're acting out that way for a reason, they're not doing it just to be doing it,” said Hairston.
The state legislature has passed an additional $3.5 million in statewide funding for programs like the one at Gracepoint.
If the measure is signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott that will mean the Gracepoint program will be able to serve about a third more people.
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