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Mentally ill are treated shamefully

November 27, 2006

Re "A false sense of security in L.A. County jail," Nov. 23

As an attorney who regularly represents parolees such as Thomas Lingenfelter, his murder while in custody came as no great surprise to me. Mentally ill parolees, locked up for parole violations in the Twin Towers jail, are routinely denied their psychiatric medications. The majority of these parolees receive outpatient treatment, where their meds are prescribed and monitored, as a condition of parole. This would be readily ascertainable to the jail staff simply by phoning the arrestee's parole officer. Many of these parolees are arrested for missing a treatment session, often because they are incapacitated by their psychiatric condition. Without their meds, by the time they have their hearing, they appear at their worst -- confused, bizarre and often frightening. And as a final insult to injury, if found guilty of missing a psychiatric appointment, they are denied any time credits in their sentence. As Lingenfelter's death so aptly and tragically demonstrates, the mentally ill do not belong in jail. And our treatment of them there is just plain shameful.

BRIAN HUDSON

Los Angeles

The writer is executive director of the California Assn. of Parole Defense Attorneys.

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