A class-action lawsuit has been filed against South Dakota’s Human Services Center (HSC) on behalf of the mentally ill in the state who remain incarcerated while awaiting transfer for competency restoration.
On Dec. 20, the courtappointed guardian of Juan Alvarez, Aubrey Archambeau and Joseph Baker filed a class action suit in federal court on their behalf against the administrator of HSC, Jeremy Johnson.
According to the complaint:
• on Aug. 26, Juan Alvarez was ordered committed/transported to HSC for attempted competency restoration;
• on Sept. 8, Joseph Baker was ordered transported to “a residential state mental health facility or facility authorized by statute to provide restorative services” to attempt to restore him to competency;
• and on Oct. 12, Aubrey Archambeau was ordered “immediately” committed and transported to HSC, also in an attempt to restore him to competency.
None of the three has been transported and all remain in jail, according to the complaint.
When an individual charged with a crime is found by the court to be incompetent to stand trial, the justice system seeks to restore their competency so they can stand trial. HSC, the state’s only mental hospital, plays a key role in that process.
Workforce issues cited in October to the Legislature’s Mental Health Services Delivery Task Force in Pierre were reportedly the cause of the current backlog of cases.
The “class” named in the complaint includes all other individuals in South Dakota who currently and in the future find themselves in similar circumstances.
The complaint argues that holding such individuals indefinitely in a jail instead of transporting them as ordered constitutes a violation of the 14th Amendment’s due-process clause, and that the plaintiffs are suffering injury as a result.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to rectify the situation for the class, essentially making the state follow the standards it has set for itself.
On Dec. 20, a summons was sent to Johnson notifying of the lawsuit and giving him 21 days to reply to the complaint or receive summary judgment against him. The suit cannot be filed against HSC, but must be filed against an individual responsible for HSC.
No hearings have been set.