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Behav Sci Law. 2009 Sep-Oct;27(5):767-86. doi: 10.1002/bsl.890.

Competency courts: a creative solution for restoring competency to the competency process.

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Public and Community Safety Division, Seattle City Attorney's Office, Seattle University School of Law, Seattle, WA 98124-4667, USA.


It is well accepted that jail is a poor setting for treating the acutely mentally ill, yet the number of mentally ill persons in jail has increased such that Los Angeles County Jail and Riker's Island in New York house more mentally ill than any psychiatric hospital. The number of mentally ill persons charged with a crime whose competency to stand trial is in question has also increased dramatically. Inefficiencies within the competency process result in mentally ill persons charged with crimes remaining in jail longer than necessary. One solution is "competency court", a specialty court within a mental health court. The same judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals staff both courts. By combining their Mental Health Court experience, they can work with the mentally ill using their expertise in competency law and processes, and thereby improve the competency process and reduce the unnecessary time that mentally ill persons spend in jail.

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