A man suffering from severe mental illness was held for 92 days at the Hennepin County jail without access to proper medical treatment because of a severe and worsening shortage of beds in state psychiatric facilities.
The prolonged detention of Raymond Traylor Jr., 28, has become the latest flash point in a long-running struggle between county and state officials over how to accommodate a growing number of jail inmates with serious mental illnesses.
Traylor, who is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, was arrested in early April, but disorderly conduct charges against him were dropped after it became clear that his behavior was related to his mental illness. Even so, Traylor remained in custody for more than three months — exceeding the 90-day maximum sentence allowed for misdemeanor charges — and was transferred only early Thursday to the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center, where he will receive treatment for his mental illness.
During Traylor’s time in custody, his mental state deteriorated substantially, officials said. He threatened to stab and murder jail staff and engaged in increasingly erratic behavior, such as smearing feces on his cell window, court records show.
Frustration over his case boiled to the surface in May, when Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek wrote a strongly worded letter to Gov. Mark Dayton demanding that Traylor be admitted immediately to a state psychiatric facility. That letter prompted a high-level meeting Thursday between Stanek, Dayton, several Hennepin County commissioners and Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper, whose agency oversees state-operated psychiatric facilities. The discussion centered on possible statewide solutions to persistent bottlenecks in Minnesota’s mental health system, which have worsened since the state passed a law in 2013 giving jail inmates priority for admission into state psychiatric facilities, according to those present.
In an interview after the meeting, Stanek said state officials failed to present realistic solutions to the problem of hundreds of people with mental illness languishing in jails.
“This will continue to go on, and people like Traylor will continue to be pushed aside,” Stanek said. “The state does not have the capacity and is not prepared to deal with those who suffer from severe mental illness, and they don’t appear willing to do much going forward.”
As many as a quarter of the inmates in county jails across Minnesota suffer from a diagnosed mental illness — hundreds of people on any given day — yet county jails are generally ill-equipped to offer care or keep them safe.
The situation was exacerbated by a 2013 law, known as the “48-hour rule,” that requires the state to find a psychiatric bed within 48 hours for any jail inmate who is determined by a judge to be mentally ill. The mandate was meant to shrink the swelling population of people with mental illnesses in county jails. However, state psychiatric hospitals were not prepared for the influx of court-ordered admissions from jails, and the wait to get into state facilities has grown significantly worse since the law went into effect, state officials said.
Admissions to state-operated psychiatric facilities under the “48-hour law” reached 152 through the first six months of 2018, which is up 42 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).
However, the law is not always observed. Early this year, the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association said it documented at least 60 cases since 2015 in which DHS failed to admit jail inmates within 48 hours. Stanek said Hennepin County still has three inmates who have been approved for admission to a state psychiatric facility under the 48-hour mandate, but are still stuck in the jail.
Piper said she met with the Sheriffs’ Association in May, and has been working closely with individual sheriffs to find some solutions. That includes ongoing efforts by her agency to expand crisis mental health services in local communities, and to expedite treatment and reduce lengthy hospital stays at Anoka-Metro.
“It’s not acceptable either to warehouse people who don’t need to be there in an institution,” Piper said of people with mental illness languishing in jails. “There are constitutional implications to that happening as well. It’s incumbent on all of us to find ways to work together to solve these issues.”
According to court records, Traylor was provisionally discharged from the Minnesota Security Hospital, the state’s largest psychiatric facility, in August of last year, to an adult foster care home in Bloomington. While there, he stopped taking his medications, began threatening to hit people and spoke about “god and the Nazis,” according to court documents. He was not allowed back to the facility after he defecated in the middle of the living from floor, court records show.
An attorney for Traylor did not respond to calls Thursday.
“[Traylor] is grossly psychotic,” Judge Elizabeth Cutter wrote in a May order. “In his present mental state, it would be recklessly irresponsible to simply return him to the community without any judicially mandated support and care.”