How Spotlight PA/PINJ Reported “Criminal Settlement” Spotlight PA
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HARRISBURG — The very system meant to protect people with mental illness in the criminal justice system often makes things worse and ends up in prison, according to new research by Spotlight PA and the Pittsburgh Institute for Journalism It became clear.
To understand Pennsylvania’s competency system, Spotlight PA and the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (PINJ) spent six months reviewing hundreds of pages of documents, conducting dozens of interviews, and conducting 700 interviews. We analyzed data from close court cases. Newsroom sent a system and mental health resources survey to every local prison in the Commonwealth and received 22 responses that contributed information to this report.
The reporter interviewed both Rachel and Sarah Bridgeman and spoke candidly about their experiences with the competency system in Pennsylvania. The Newsroom reviewed Rachel’s medical records from the Allegheny County Jail, an affidavit regarding her arrest, and court records from her case to corroborate Bridgman’s story. The reporter also spoke with lawyers and supporters of the Abolitionist Law Center.
Spotlight PA and PINJ reporters sent detailed written questions about Rachel’s case to the Pittsburgh Police Department, Allegheny County Jail, county prosecutors, public defenders, and the court. In addition, reporters sent extensive questions to the Department of Social Services, which oversees Torrance and Norristown State Hospitals.
Spotlight PA requested and paid $860 for records from the Pennsylvania Office of Courts and Courts (AOPC), a government agency that oversees district courts and maintains thousands of legal records from across the state. Spotlight PA, PINJ, and her AOPC officials have spent months identifying the docket of the case, which includes evidence that the defendant was evaluated for competence between her 2018 and her 2022 years. We discussed requests. We provided information on 23 counties and the cases in the database.
However, because the AOPC searches using specific terms in specific areas and each district court handles incapacity proceedings differently, it has been impossible to find every case. In the months since we got the data, Spotlight PA and PINJ have encountered cases that occurred within the timeframe used in the request but were not included in the database provided by AOPC.
In addition to competency cases, reporters asked the Department of Human Services for data on wait times to enter state hospitals in Torrance and Norristown. The department explained that DHS staff manually track wait times using patient referral and admission dates. Although the department has provided some of these manual reports, at the time of publication, Spotlight PA and PINJ have not received information from his DHS regarding patient referrals or hospitalizations after 2018.
The ACLU provided the newsroom with data received from DHS.
The newsroom received inquiry and admission data provided by DHS to ACLU from December 2021 through February 2023.
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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/03/how-spotlightpa-pinj-reported-a-criminal-solution-competency-mental-health/ How Spotlight PA/PINJ Reported “Criminal Settlement” Spotlight PA