Pennsylvania agrees to new steps for mentally ill in jails

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania is agreeing to a second set of steps to try to ensure mentally ill defendants don’t suffer long stays in jail before getting transferred to a treatment unit.

U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo told lawyers Thursday that she’d approve a plan for the state Department of Human Services to pay for about 110 more treatment beds and hire consultants to recommend how to reduce the waiting list for treatment.

Civil rights lawyers say waits sometimes exceeding a year in jail amount to hundreds of daily violations of constitutional rights and are likely the longest in the nation for mentally ill defendants.

In a filing last month, they accused the department of “foot-dragging” on commitments it made more than a year ago to settle a 2015 lawsuit.

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