Policy UpdatesTexas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice – SB 562

Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice – SB 562

On April 17, 2019, Nelson Jarrin, JD, MMHPI Senior Director of Government Affairs, was invited testimony at the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. Senate Bill 562, relating to criminal or juvenile procedures regarding persons who are or may be persons with a mental illness or intellectual disability and the operation and effects of successful completion of a mental health court program, was filed by Senator Judith Zaffirini.  

During his testimony, Mr. Jarrin described how under the current process, judges are required to commit a defendant to a maximum security unit (MSU) for competency restoration services based solely on the offense charged in the indictment, without regard to the defendant’s current level of functioning, a clinical assessment, or the circumstances of the offense. Our state hospital system has an extremely limited number of MSU beds available (306 statewide), so defendants remain in jail for an extended period, without a case disposition, delaying access to needed treatment to stabilize symptoms while awaiting admission to a MSU.

After outlining amendments to the current process as proposed, Mr. Jarrin explained how SB 562 has the potential to reduce the MSU waiting list, while reserving the state’s limited MSU beds for defendants who are truly manifestly dangerous. Those individuals committed to non-MSU facilities as a result of this new process would experience shorter wait times in county jails and thus a quicker path to a treatment.