Federal judge to decide if locking up mentally ill violates constitution

Published 1:04 pm Monday, July 1, 2019

A federal judge will now decide if Mississippi’s mental health system breaks the law by unnecessarily confining people.

The U.S. Justice Department urged U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves to order changes in closing arguments Monday, following a month-long trial.

The Justice Department says Mississippi’s movement toward providing community services is far too slow, forcing hundreds or thousands of people into hospital stays that could be avoided. Federal officials say Mississippi violates a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said “unjustified” confinement in a mental hospital is illegal.

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Lawyers for the state say Mississippi is progressing on its own and that the federal government makes nebulous demands that could be ridiculously expensive.

Both sides will submit post-trial briefs. Reeves, who heard the case without a jury, will then rule.