Lawsuit: Defendants wait in Utah jails for treatment, trial

By The Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 9, 2015 at 3:41 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A legal rights group says Utah is violating the constitutional rights of criminal defendants who are not competent to stand trial by leaving them waiting in jail for months before they can be treated and ready to face their charges.

The Salt Lake City-based Disability Law Center filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court Tuesday against Utah's Department of Human Services, which oversees both the state mental health division and state hospital.

The Disability Law Center says defendants who have been ruled incompetent are waiting in jail for up to seven months for treatment, even though they're still considered innocent under the law.

Department of Human Services spokeswoman Heather Barnum says the agency continuously reviews the quality of its services and that the Utah attorney general's office is reviewing the lawsuit.

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