Indefinite detention of defendants with disabilities due to COVID-19

Empty jail cell viewed through a portal

Closing the doors of the Oregon State Hospital (OSH) to defendants found unable to aid and assist in their defense during the COVDI-19 public health crisis means more people with mental illness will be stuck indefinitely in county jails.

In a letter sent to the counsel for the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), DRO warned that shutting off OSH to defendants found unable to aid and assist would worsen the mental health of those individuals left waiting in jail, violates the constitutional rights individuals who are accused of a crime, and runs the risk of spreading COVID-19 within a different institution: county jails.

In recent weeks, DRO, along with other advocates, has called for county jails to take steps, including reducing jail capacity, to protect jail inmates from COVID-19.

The immediate creation of community-based treatment

DRO asked OHA to designate community sites for housing people with serious mental illness including current state hospital patients who are ready for discharge.

OHA has broad authority to create, purchase, lease, or designate any number of sites outside the state hospital grounds as places for housing people in need of restoration.


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