A Disease of the Mind is Not a Crime.


October 6, 2008, Saint Paul, Minn– The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit today against St. Mary’s Medical Center and the City of Duluth in Federal District Court over the wrongful death of David Croud. On October 12, 2005, a Duluth police officer saw David Croud in downtown Duluth demonstrating “odd behavior.” She called for backup. According to witnesses, when backup arrived, the officers slammed David Croud against a brick wall then threw him to the ground, pushing his face into the cement. The witnesses said that they did not see Croud being aggressive in anyway. Then, the police pushed and hit Croud into the squad car and used a taser on him.

They put handcuffs and facial restraints on Croud and took him to St. Mary’s Medical Center for his injuries. He continued to struggle, and hospital staff administered 10 mg haldol to calm him. When that failed to work, they administered a subsequent dose which, according to a review by the Minnesota Department of Health, resulted in him receiving three times the recommended maximum allowance of the sedative. The hospital staff left Croud in restraints and on his stomach. When they returned, he was unconscious. He subsequently fell into a coma and died on October 18, 2005.

“David’s life was tragically cut short on that October day,” said ACLU-MN Executive Director Charles Samuelson. “He did not have to die, and now his family will suffer the consequences. They will never get him back; his children will never again get to see their dad.” Today, the ACLU of Minnesota filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of James Croud, brother of David Croud, against St. Mary’s Medical Center and the City of Duluth Police officers for depriving his brother of his life. Read the Croud Complaint that the ACLU filed in court. Attorneys in this case are Albert Goins of the Goins Law Firm and John Goetz of Schwebel, Goetz and Seiben.


By MAURA LERNER, Star Tribune

When the emergency room staff at Northfield City Hospital thought an obviously disturbed patient was about to turn violent, they did what many hospitals do in that situation: They called the police.

In this instance, officers used a Taser to shock the man. The patient dropped to the floor, was injected with medications and transferred to the psychiatric unit at another hospital, according to an official report about the February incident. Now federal and state health officials have cited the Northfield hospital for violating the patient’s rights. The hospital and the Minnesota Hospital Association are perplexed by the ruling, which could have implications throughout the state.

“They did nothing wrong here,” said David Feinwachs, general counsel for the association. He said it’s not uncommon for hospitals to call police in cases like this. “And now they’re being faulted for it.” The Minnesota Department of Health, which investigated the incident, cited the hospital for failing to protect the patient’s safety. Under federal law, the hospital could lose Medicare funding if the problem isn’t corrected.

“It wasn’t an easy case,” said Darcy Miner, director of complaints monitoring for the department. Still, she said, health officials concluded that “something happened that shouldn’t have” and that the hospital could have done more to avoid it. “We felt that in this situation, that level of force was not warranted,” she said.

The incident tapped into growing concern about the use of Tasers on patients who turn violent or dangerous. Just last month, Canadian police came under fire for using a Taser on a bedridden 82-year-old man, who had become delirious and wielded a knife at a hospital in British Columbia. The American Psychiatric Association has called for national guidelines on Taser use in hospitals. The Northfield case was the first time a Taser was used on a patient there, according to Ken Bank, the hospital’s president. The patient, who was not identified, was not injured beyond the initial Taser shock, he said. The Health Department’s criticism, he said, “came as a bolt out of the blue to us.” He said the hospital has had the same policy for handling unruly patients for 20 years.

“It’s difficult to figure out how to handle those fairly rare situations differently than we’re doing now,” he said. “We don’t have round-the-clock security. Most hospitals under 100 beds don’t. So that’s what we’ve been struggling with.”


Florida Chief Justice Hosts Landmark Summit on Mental Health
Other Chief Justice Task Forces Continue to Make Progress

On November 14, Chief Justice Fred Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court hosted an unprecedented forum among state leaders to unveil a plan to improve the state’s mental health system and to better coordinate services provided to people with mental illnesses, including those involved with the criminal justice system. The plan unveiled at the event is part of the work undertaken by Florida’s Chief Justice-led task force, one of seven such statewide task forces convened by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the National GAINS/TAPA Center to improve responses to people with mental illnesses involved with the criminal justice system. (View a pdf of the Supreme Court press release here.)

Governor Crist spoke at the event: “We have a responsibility to support and care for the most vulnerable among us, and at the same time, ensure the safety of our communities while also being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.” The plan detailed in the report, Transforming Florida’s Mental Health System, recommends the development of a strategy to reduce the state’s dependence on state forensic mental health beds and to reinvest millions of state dollars currently spent on those beds in community-based mental health treatment. In 2006, Florida ranked 12th in the country in spending for forensic mental health services, and since then, spending has dramatically increased, with $16 million in emergency funding and $48 million in annual funding added in the past year. Conversely, Florida ranks 48th nationally in terms of overall per capital public mental health spending. (Download a pdf of the report here.)

Key Florida agency heads, including Secretary Bob Butterworth of the Department of Children and Families, Secretary James McDonough of the Department of Corrections, and Secretary Walt McNeil of the Department of Juvenile Justice, attended the summit. State Senator Stephen Wise, a member of the Justice Center Board of Directors and chairman of the Committee on Education Pre-K-12 Appropriations, also attended. The event generated extensive media coverage, and numerous newspapers issued editorials in support of the report’s findings, available on the Criminal Justice/Mental Health InfoNet.

Chief Justice Lewis assigned Judge Steve Leifman as the Supreme Court’s Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health to manage the day-to-day operations of the task force, and Judge Leifman delivered the report’s findings and recommendations at the forum on November 14. Leifman also serves as the co-chair of the national Chief Justices’ Criminal Justice / Mental Health Leadership Initiative, which the Justice Center coordinates in partnership with the GAINS Center.

Chief justices in six other states were also selected to participate in the Chief Justices’ Criminal Justice/Mental Health Leadership Initiative and receive funding support and technical support from the Justice Center and the GAINS Center. The chief justices in these states, California, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, and Vermont, have convened task forces to develop strategies to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses in the justice system across the state.

U.S. House Passes the Second Chance Act on Prisoner Reentry

On November 13, 2007 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Second Chance Act of 2007, H.R. 1593—a bill that will increase the likelihood that people’s transition from prisons and jails to the community is safe and successful. The bill, introduced by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) received broad bipartisan support, passing the House 347-62.

Leaders of the Council of State Governments Justice Center commended Members of the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the bill. “The Second Chance Act’s goals and provisions support the kinds of policy changes and programs that the Justice Center’s federally funded Re-entry Policy Council Report recommends to lower recidivism rates,” said Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, Justice Center board member and chair of the New York State Assembly Correction Committee. “We urge the Senate to take swift action in support of this bill.”

The House bill authorizes up to $55 million dollars in grants to state and local governments to develop reentry initiatives to help keep people released from prisons and jails from recidivating, including projects that seek to connect people coming out of prisons or jails with mental health services.

“The passage of the Second Chance Act illustrates the extraordinary bipartisan consensus that exists among elected officials that we need to reduce the rates at which people return to prison after they’re released,” said Rep. Davis.

Approximately 95 percent of all state prisoners will be released. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), half will return to prison within three years and even more will be re-arrested. Incarcerated individuals with mental illnesses stay incarcerated even longer than the general corrections population and are more likely to recidivate–often soon after their release. In part, recidivism rates are driving the continued growth of prison and jail populations across the country and associated costs. As of 2004, national spending on local, state, and federal corrections totaled $61 billion. That figure is poised to increase; a recent report from The Pew Charitable Trusts stated that if current federal, state, and local policies and practices do not change, taxpayers are expected to pay as much as $27.5 billion on prisons alone over the next five years on top of current corrections spending.

“Enacting the Second Chance Act and funding the programs it authorizes will enable us to save taxpayer dollars, increase public safety, strengthen families, and make sure the gates to our prisons are not just revolving doors,” said Rep. Cannon.

For more information on the Second Chance Act, please contact Sara Paterni. To view resources on the Second Chance Act, please visit the Reentry Policy Council Website.

Criminal Justice and Mental Health in the News

Articles from newspapers around the country covering issues at the intersection of mental health and criminal justice can be found on theCriminal Justice / Mental Health InfoNet Website.