Charged But Not Convicted: How The Mentally Ill Can Wait Behind Bars Awaiting Evaluations

Apr 15, 2017

In the spring of 2014, Marilyn Roberts' son, Kevin, was 27 years old and struggling with bipolar disorder. One day, he called his mom to tell her that he was taking a bus to go to downtown Olympia, Wash., not too far from where he lived. 

"He was to a point where wasn't cognizant of what was going on, on a day to day basis," Roberts remembers.

Kevin smokes cigarettes. At a bus stop in Olympia, he lit up in a non-smoking area. Kevin exchanged a few words with transit workers who asked him to put out the cigarette, or move. Kevin went somewhere else, but someone who was watching this exchange called the police. 

When the police arrived, Kevin was in an area where smoking was allowed. Police approached him and asked him to stop smoking and to pull his hands out of his pockets. When Kevin took the cigarette out of his mouth, he flicked it in the air. His mom, Marilyn says what was left of it ended up landing on the cap of one of the officers. 

Kevin was charged with assaulting a police officer. He was booked into Thurston County Jail and spent 97 days behind bars, off of his medication and becoming more delusional as each day passed. He was charged with a crime, but not convicted.

In this story, we learn about a court case and a decision by a federal judge that says the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services needs to cut down on the amount of time mentally ill men and women accused of low level crimes wait to receive evaluations that determine whether they are fit to stand trial and if they need treatment.