SummitStone leading the way for speedy justice in criminal cases
When someone enters the criminal justice system but does not understand the charges against them or how the court system works, what happens? Because a fair trial is a constitutional right, measures must be taken to ensure each defendant is fit to proceed to trial.
These defendants may be in jail, in the community on bond, or receiving care at the state mental health hospital. Steps are taken to educate them regarding the role of the court, judges, lawyers, and the charges against them so that they understand the process. Often times, this can lead to long waits before justice can be served.
Competency Dockets are increasingly being implemented across the country to provide a more streamlined method to assist these defendants and help to ensure a fair and speedy trial. Larimer County is leading the way in Colorado.
In September 2020, SummitStone Health Partners and several of our community partners began meeting to address improvements in the criminal justice system regarding competency to stand trial. The solution we helped to develop is now the first Competency Docket created in Colorado, which was officially launched in May.
We worked together with the following agencies including, but not limited to:
- 8th Judicial District Court
- District Attorney’s Office
- Public Defender’s Office
- Office of Behavioral Health
- Criminal Justice Services Division including the Bridges Program and Pre-trial Services
- Larimer County Jail
- The Murphy Center
- Denver Rescue Mission
- Foothills Gateway
Competency refers to the ability of a defendant to understand the charges against them and the roles of the lawyer, judges, and the court system as a whole. It ensures that a defendant’s constitutional rights for a fair trial are upheld.
SummitStone provides the following services related to competency clients:
- In-custody Competency Enhancement Treatment and Case Management Services through the Jail Based Team
- Case management for clients transitioning out of custody into the community
- Outpatient Competency Restoration Education
- Referrals to appropriate treatment services to either SummitStone services or other partner agencies
I am so proud of the work we are doing to uphold the rights of people in our community who need our help to understand the charges they are facing. This work continues to advance the reduction of stigma surrounding mental health and addiction issues that can lead to criminal charges and incarceration. Our hope is to streamline the process to reduce the time people spend in jail or the Colorado Mental Health Institute and provide the care they need.
Yours in good health,
Michael G. Allen, MBA, LCSW, CACIII