In an effort to combat COVID-19, the California Department of Corrections has refused admission to state prison for thousands of convicted felons still sitting in county jails, or they have released inmates – including those who committed murder – long before they served out their full sentences.
But left to languish in county jails are people who have not yet been convicted of any crime, local officials said.
A Colusa County woman found mentally incompetent to aid in her defense, in May, is still in custody in the Colusa County Jail.
Patricia Wesley, 25, is accused of trying to attack a Williams Police officer with a large kitchen knife, on April 8, when the officer responded to a disturbance at a relative’s home in the senior apartment complex on Marguerite Street, in Williams.
Wesley has not appeared in court in several months due to her uncontrolled behavior, and she is classified as a maximum security inmate housed in a single cell, jail officials said.
Public Defender, Albert Smith, and the District Attorney’s Office have desperately tried to get the state to provide the mental health treatment Wesley needs in order for her to be competent enough to stand trial.
Although she was committed to a state hospital on June 10, Wesley remains in local custody as number 34 on the waiting list for admittance, with an estimated admission date of Dec. 31, Smith said.
“She presents as a sympathetic figure, even though she is extremely difficult to deal with,” Smith said, during a status hearing in Colusa County Superior Court on Sept. 23.
Wesley is charged with assaulting a peace officer, resisting an executive officer, three charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance, and DUI. She is facing up to five years in state prison on each of the serious felonies, one year in jail on the DUI, and fines up to $20,000, officials said.
Before being committed for treatment, however, the Department of State Hospitals put all five of the state’s inpatient facilities on strict COVID-19 lockdowns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As of Monday, 92 patients and 103 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at Metropolitan Hospital, in Los Angles County, and 148 patients and 145 staff have tested positive at Patton, in San Bernardino County, where the majority of patients found incompetent to state trial are housed and can be treated for up to three years.
Two inmates at state mental health facilities have died in California, according to the DSH’s website, although there have been no positive cases in staff or patients in the past 14 days.
Smith said he has reached out to Colusa County Behavioral Health for possible community placement for Wesley, but they have not responded.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Brendan Farrell last week shared in Smith’s disappointment that the state cannot process 34 people before the end of the year, but said Wesley must remain locked up until she is committed.
“We can’t let her out,” Farrell said. “She is a serious danger to herself and others.”
Before the April 8 incident, Wesley had a number of run-ins with the law. She was charged with carrying a dirk or dagger in 2013, which was dismissed when she pleaded no contest to obstructing a peace officer. In 2014, she pleaded guilty to carrying a switchblade in a deal with prosecutors that dismissed battery charges. In 2015, Wesley was arrested for resisting an executive officer and being under the influence of a controlled substance, although the charges were later dismissed.
Although she is facing considerable time in prison, if convicted, Wesley will be credited with all the time she has spent locked up since her arrest, including time, if any, she spends at a state mental hospital prior to trial. ♣