The Illinois Department of Human Services transported all waiting inmates deemed “mentally unfit” to mental health hospitals on Thursday.
KNOX COUNTY, Illinois — On Thursday, Aug. 4, the Illinois Department of Human Services transported all Knox County inmates deemed mentally unfit to stand trial to mental health hospitals. This happened just hours before the department secretary was due to appear in court for violating state law by not allowing their transfer.
In July, Knox County Attorney, Jeremy Karlin, filed contempt petitions against IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou for disallowing the transport of five inmates, some of whom waited more than 100 days to be moved. Karlin claimed that the department had deemed the Knox County inmates unfit for trial, assessed them and found them suitable for treatment at McFarland Mental Health Hospital.
Associate Circuit Judge Curtis Lane ordered Hou to appear in court on Thursday to provide evidence as to why she should not be regarded with contempt for intentionally disobeying transportation orders. However, Lane declared the issue non-negotiable on Thursday when IDHS finally allowed the transport of the detainees. The last of the five was transported just four hours before the hearing was due to begin.
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At Thursday’s contempt hearing, Lane said he would not hesitate to sign orders in the future if IDHS fails to comply with state law in a timely manner.
After the transfer of the prisoners, Karlin issued the following statement:
The system of providing mental health care for unfit suspects seems to be broken. It should not be the threat of contempt to get approval to transport these individuals to IDHS mental health hospitals. Sufficient resources must be allocated for extra beds and staff to allow IDHS to meet its legal obligations. The current situation is a disservice to the people who need mental health care, the victims in these cases who have to wait for a solution, the prison staff whose own safety is at risk, and the taxpayers who can rightly expect government agencies to perform their duties in a timely manner.
In June, Rock Island County filed a petition against the Department of Human Services for the same reason.