Watch the game show Florida uses to teach mental patients to be competent to stand trial
Every year, Florida spends $50 million holding nonviolent criminal defendants in mental hospitals. But the hospitals don’t try to treat their illnesses.
Instead, they give them medication and training for one purpose: to get them deemed competent to face their charges.
Some patients watch reruns of Law & Order. Others play parts in scripted mock trials, or become contestants in a courtroom version of Wheel of Fortune.
It’s all laid out in this state training video that some patients are required to watch while they are confined at the cost of more than $300 a day. Each time a patient watches the video, it costs roughly $8.
To leave the mental ward and return to court, defendants must understand the crime they’ve been accused of committing.
They must understand the difference between guilt and innocence.
They have to know the punishments for their crimes.
They must be able to aid in their own defense.
In the training videos, all ends well. The player in the game show answers enough questions correctly, and the host congratulates her.
The defendant in the mock trial gets off on his murder charge. He is said to be “satisfied” with the result.
In real life, many defendants have a very different experience, a Tampa Bay Times/Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigation has found. Each year, hundreds of them spend more time locked away in treatment than they could get in jail if they simply pleaded guilty.
Some get released with no way to get medication. They wind up back in jail or in mental hospitals over and over again.