Thursday, November 30, 2006

DCF Fraud and Perjury had gone on too long nationwide

DCF Commissioner Could Face Criminal Contempt Charges
Tue Nov 28, 2006 4:47 pm (PST)
Posted on Wed, Nov. 22, 2006

DCF chief could face contempt charge

DCF Secretary Lucy Hadi must go to court to face accusations that her agency
ignored judges' orders regarding psychiatric care for jail inmates.


A judge is threatening to jail the head of Florida's long-troubled
social services agency, saying she appears to have made ''a conscious decision
to ignore court orders'' by not providing psychiatric treatment to several
inmates with severe mental illnesses.

In an unprecedented ruling Tuesday, Pinellas Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell
ordered Department of Children & Families Secretary Lucy Hadi to appear in
court next month to explain why she should not be held in criminal contempt of

''Regular citizens who ignore court orders go to jail,'' said Bob Dillinger,
the Pinellas public defender who represents several inmates there who are
awaiting transport to a DCF-operated psychiatric hospital for treatment.

``I don't
think government people should be any different.''

The issue has a statewide backdrop. Public defenders have filed court motions
aimed at forcing the DCF to treat inmates with mental illnesses in, and counties -- and public defenders elsewhere have
been paying close attention.

Last month in , Farnell found the department in contempt and
ordered fines that were later suspended. Tuesday's order raises the stakes by
focusing on Hadi individually and raising the possibility of jail time.

Al Zimmerman, Hadi's spokesman in , insisted Tuesday that the
agency was working as aggressively as possible to solve a bed space problem.
''The secretary being led off in handcuffs is not going to help add more beds
that are desperately needed by these people,'' Zimmerman said.

department and secretary want to work with the court in any way we can to solve this
problem. We certainly in no way want to work against the court.''


Hadi told The Herald last week that the problem became a crisis only
recently, when the number of jail inmates with mental illness dramatically
exceeded the state's projections.

''We don't control the pipeline,'' Hadi said, adding that agency officials
could not have seen ``the tsunami coming.''

Zimmerman said the DCF will ask lawmakers to move $5 million from other
agency services to pay for several new beds at the state's three psychiatric
hospitals that treat felony defendants. The agency doesn't yet know how many beds
the money will pay for or when they will be available, he added.

''We get the message. And we have gotten the message,'' Zimmerman added.
``There is no one in the state of Florida working harder to resolve this issue
than Secretary Hadi.''

If Farnell finds that Hadi is in contempt of judges' orders, she faces a
maximum sentence of five months and 29 days in jail for each of the seven counts
she faces, Dillinger said. She also faces the possibility of unspecified fines
for each count.


Under Florida law, jail inmates who are found incompetent to stand trial must
be taken into custody by the DCF to begin psychiatric treatment within 15
days of a judge's order. But for years, the agency has allowed inmates to
languish in jail well past the deadline, arguing it lacks the money and bed space to
house all the inmates.

The number of mentally ill inmates waiting longer than 15 days in local jails
increased from 7 percent to 72 percent of the total number of commitments the
past six years, said Carlos Martinez, chief assistant public defender in

. His office is awaiting a ruling from a
appeals court on its request
that the DCF be held in contempt.

The wait time for a bed spiked from a week past the 15-day limit to an
average of 62 days past the limit, Martinez added.

''The judge is right,'' Martinez said of Farnell.

``DCF has broken the law
meant to protect people with mental illness. If judges can't enforce the laws,
then we are left with an all-powerful, unaccountable executive branch.''

Last month, Farnell found the department in contempt of court, and ordered
the DCF to pay a $1,000 fine for every day a client is left at the jail past the
15-day window.

The fines were suspended, however, while Farnell gave DCF officials time to
arrange treatment for the inmates at a state psychiatric facility, such as

For the budget year 2006-2007, records show, 187 mentally ill defendants
waited for treatment longer than the 15 days allowed by state law. Currently, more
than 300 men and women are awaiting a treatment bed.

The DCF acknowledged that the agency cut its budget for treatment beds by $53
million in the 2006-2007 budget year -- money that would have ''more than
eliminated the exiting wait list,'' Farnell wrote in his previous order.
In that Oct. 11 order, Farnell accused the DCF of a ``deliberate refusal to
comply with . . . court orders.''

''The court . . . notes that after Aug. 1, 2006, a conscious decision was
made by this executive state agency to simply ignore court orders,'' Farnell
wrote. ``This type of arrogant activity cannot be tolerated in an orderly


Farnell wrote that the DCF's recalcitrance was ''not new,'' noting that some
defendants had waited weeks -- even months -- for psychiatric care after a
judge ordered it. One man, ordered into care on Oct. 18, 2005, waited 176 days to
be transported to a hospital. Two other men, found incompetent in June,
waited 82 and 86 days.

According to court records, the DCF acknowledged as far back as 2001 that the
state woefully lacked bed space for defendants either too mentally ill or
mentally impaired to stand trial. In April of that year, the department said 101
mentally ill clients were waiting for a bed, and another 37 were awaiting a
bed at an institution for the developmentally disabled.

In , the public defender's office on Feb. 9 asked Circuit Judge
Martin Bidwell to hold the DCF in contempt for ignoring his orders as well.
A decision on that request is expected as early as this week.

Thomas M. Dutkiewicz, President
Special Family Advocate
Connecticut DCF Watch
P.O. Box 3005
Bristol, CT 06011-3005


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