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Wayne Michigan Form 4876-A: What You Should Know

In a series of hearings, they warned against the abuses of the rights of the mentally deficient and the mentally disabled in our criminal justice system. There is no question that these people are the victims of criminal actions and abuses of the rights of those with mental illness. Yet the civil rights of these groups have been ignored or even rejected by all levels of government for decades. Now, in two cases in Michigan, we have cases where courts have refused to restore the rights of mentally dis­abled people. These groups of people, and not the criminally guilty, deserve the rights we all enjoy under the law. In a landmark decision, today, the Michigan Supreme Court is asked to order the government to provide a “right to counsel” to the mentally ill and developmentalally dis­abled in criminal cases. According to the plaintiffs in these cases, the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled in the state of Michigan are routinely removed from their communities and taken to detention facilities where they are often abused and even starved. The problem is particularly prevalent in Wayne County, where the government has failed, on and off, to provide even minimal safeguards against abuse of those with mental illness in state custody. The Michigan Department of Corrections recently admitted that mentally ill citizens, primarily prisoners, are being kept in jail because they lack enough food to survive. In addition, in many cases, the mentally ill have committed crimes and were sent to jail in order to prevent them from harming others. It is now obvious that even the mentally ill can be dangerous, and that the law must be changed at the statehouse. If the Michigan Supreme Court's request is granted, this case would be one of the first cases in the United States to hold the federal government accountable and force it to provide better protections to the mentally ill and the disabled. There are many other cases being fought in state courts and federal court that could be the foundation for the change in state and federal laws. The following is an outline of the specific legislation at issue below:  Wayne County Circuit Court Bill HR 699, “The Right to Counsel to Individuals With Mental Disabilities in the Civil Justice System”, would give an individual with a mental disability the right to a civil lawyer with the civil rights of an attorney as defined under the U.S. Constitution.

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