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
Pride & LGBTQ+ Month
Happy Pride, everyone! Among other things, June is the month in which we take pride in being our true and authentic selves. We celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride in June because on June 28, 1969, Trans Women of Color, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, led a protest at the Stonewall Inn. During what came to be known as the Stonewall Riots.
LGBTQIA+ individuals fought back during a routine police raid and arrest of people they found to be not wearing three articles of clothing “appropriate” to their assigned sex at birth (which was a legal statute at the time). This night is often credited for beginning the LGBTQIA+ rights movement and is widely celebrated. However, the movement for LGBTQIA+ rights has a long history prior to 1969. For example, as early as the 1950s, advocacy groups (e.g., Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis) were opposing job discrimination; and LBGTQIA+ people at restaurants (e.g., San Francisco’s Compton’s Cafeteria, Philadelphia’s Dewey’s Restaurant, and Los Angeles’ Black Cat Tavern) were demanding access to public accommodations and freedom from police harassment.
Fast forward to the year 2021, there is plenty to celebrate yet also plenty of reason to continue the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. Unfortunately, this year has seen many anti-LGBTQIA+ bills come across various state legislatures. Eight such bills have already been enacted and 10 are awaiting governors’ signatures. Specifically, the bills ban transgender girls from playing on sports teams, deny transgender youth the gender-affirming medical care they need, and allow businesses and physicians to use religious beliefs as justification for discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. Astonishingly, lawmakers have pushed 109 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills so far this year (more than last year or the year before).
However, despite this legalization of discrimination and deliberate harm, there has been progress in state legislatures as well. In our own state of Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis (the first openly gay governor in the U.S.) signed a bill into law prohibiting foster care service providers from discriminating against prospective foster or adoptive parents and youth based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, as well as other identities. Another bill on its way to being signed by Gov. Polis adds definitions of gender identity and gender expression to state nondiscrimination law in housing, public accommodations, employment, and more. Additionally, Virginia and Maryland passed bills banning the so-called “panic defense” (a legal strategy that has been used to defend violence against the LGBTQIA+ community by claiming that a perpetrator’s discovery of an LGBTQIA person’s gender identity or sexual orientation provoked their violence toward that person because the perpetrator feared for their own safety and had reduced rational decision-making capacity). Ohio and New Jersey also recently improved access to securing accurate identification on official documents for transgender and nonbinary people, making it easier for them to make appropriate changes on documents if needed. For more information on these positive advances, please see this link.
The fight continues … as does hope for the future. As Harvey Milk (LGBTQIA+ rights activist and first openly gay man elected to public office in California) said, “Hope will never be silent.” And neither will we. We hope you find a way to honor Pride month in a way that fits for you. Please see below for relevant resources and activities and events, and please reach out to us on the JEDIS committee with any questions or if you need support.