Psychiatrist Says Arkansas Jails are Dumping Grounds for Mentally Ill

JANUARY 5, 2006 - Posted at 4:16 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A psychiatrist criticized the mental health system in Arkansas in a federal trial in Little Rock today, saying jails often serve as a dumping ground for the mentally ill.

Bob Gale, a Little Rock psychiatrist who helped draft laws about the mentally ill in Arkansas, testified in the suit brought by Darin Winters of Bella Vista.  Winters sued over the death of his 60-year-old father Donald Winters, who died while in custody in Benton County.  The cause of death listed complications from an infection caused by injuries that had allegedly gone untreated.

Darin Winters seeks a court order to benefit other inmates who may be mentally ill.

Gale, who works as a consultant for the Pulaski County jail, said he'd reviewed documents in the case and said Winters didn't receive the treatment he needed.  He said jails are full of mentally ill patients, even those who have been declared not guilty by reason of insanity.

Gale said the state mental health system doesn't have enough spaces for the severely mentally ill.

Donald Winters died at the jail after refusing food and water for three days, believing he was to be executed.  Winters was being held at the jail on a trespassing charge.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)