Inside LADA

July 23, 2019: State Hospitals Linked to Court Via Video

Patients receiving mental health treatment may remain in the Metropolitan State Hospital – instead of county jail – during their criminal case under a new video court appearance program.

The goal is to keep patients out of the county jail system so they may stay on track with their mental health treatment. The use of video technology helps alleviate jail overcrowding and potentially saves taxpayers millions of dollars in incarceration costs.

Court appearances via video began in October for defendants housed at the Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk. The video feed connects defendants and their attorneys in the hospital to a specially equipped courtroom in the Bellflower Courthouse for pretrial hearings.

This is the first and only program of its kind in California, according to the Metropolitan State Hospital Police Department, which is seeking to replicate this model in other counties with state hospitals that provide mental health treatment.

To date, 26 defendants have had their misdemeanor cases heard on an expedited basis.

In the past, defendants moved from the state hospital typically spent up to six months in county jail (at an average of $654 a day excluding medical and mental health treatment costs) awaiting trial on a charge with a maximum sentence of one year in custody. Other cases went to warrant because the hospitalized defendants did not appear in court.

The program, which reduces court dockets by resolving misdemeanor cases within weeks instead of months or years, was recognized by the National Association of Counties.