We wish the best to Dr. Falcon with this program - we hope it serves Yuma County's vulnerable prisoners well. Anyone who has direct experience with this program and thoughts on it is invited to contact me (Peggy) at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear how it's going. Same with any of the restoration to competency or mental health programs in Arizona's other county jails.
Jail starts program to restore suspects to competency
After months of planning, the Yuma County Detention Center has implemented its own restoration to competency (RTC) program.
YCDC recently held an open house to show local judges a newly renovated mental health pod and to explain how the RTC program works.
When a person who is charged with a crime is determined by a judge to be incompetent, the judge places him or her into a mental health program so treatment can be administered until the person is capable of standing trial.
“Before we sent everyone who couldn't stand trial to the Arizona State Hospital or to another county with an RTC program,” said Lt. Joe Lackey. “Now instead of sending them away, everything is going to be performed here at the local jail. (Often times,) it would take a year before a person was restored...and that is very expensive. So this will definitely save the county money.”
Yuma County's RTC program focuses on both teaching the person what will happen during the trial and treating the person's mental illness.
“One of the things we emphasize is that it's a process,” said Dr. Elizabeth Falcon, the program's head forensic psychologist. “They first go through intake assessments, which allows us to target the areas they need to work on. Once we identify those, they begin the other critical part which is the education piece. Also during this time, they are receiving the treatment that they need.”
Falcon said the education component is divided into a series of 12 modules and the inmates must pass each one before advancing in the program.
“The modules are curriculum-based and are multi-modal so they are not just doing the same lesson,” she said. “Some (modules) include exercises or role-playing while others are more traditional.”
After inmates finish the modules and complete their therapy, they partake in a mock trial which prepares them for the actual courtroom.
“We try to simulate every aspect of a trial,” Falcon said. “Everybody who participates has a script and then we act out the trial just as it would in the courtroom.”
Two people have been admitted to the program since its inception in early November, with one person successfully completing it.
“I think it's wonderful that we have this program in Yuma,” said Yuma County Superior Court Judge Maria Elena Cruz. “It expedites the process so we can quickly identify those that can be restored and those that can't. So it's a cost savings not only financially, but on the human side of it because we won't have someone who is mentally ill without the possibility of being restored being held for months and months in jail.”