ST PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday approved spending $250,000 to immediately fund reforms to Minnesota’s broken system of handling cases where criminal suspects are too mentally ill to stand trial.
The reforms were prompted by a year-long KARE 11 investigation which detailed numerous examples where criminal defendants found too mentally ill to stand trial – called gap cases – were released back to the community and went on to commit murders, rapes and violent assaults.
State lawmakers passed the sweeping reforms last year with the goal of having a Competency Attainment Board appointed, which was supposed to recommend a process to help defendants regain competency by Jan. 1 of this year.
But those reforms were delayed due to a mistake about when the funding was to start.
Walz said getting the system corrected and up and running is critical.
“So that we can make sure there’s not gaps, both gaps in our criminal justice system of folks who need to be able to stand trial and gaps in our mental healthcare system of folks who truly do need the help,” Walz said. “And I think we’ve seen there’s cases (where) folks fell through the cracks on this.”
Walz now needs to appoint members to the Competency Attainment Board, which beginning in fiscal year 2024 will operate with a budget of $16 million a year.
The reform plan calls for the board to supervise about 120 newly created “forensic navigator” positions spread across the state. The navigators are supposed to shepherd the defendants through the state’s mental health and criminal justice systems.
Rep. Heather Edelson, who spearheaded the reforms last year, also helped pass the new funding through the legislature this session.
Watch more KARE 11 Investigates:
Watch all of the latest stories from our award-winning investigative team in our special YouTube playlist:
WATCH MORE ON KARE 11+
Download the free KARE 11+ app for Roku, Fire TV, and other smart TV platforms to watch more from KARE 11 anytime! The KARE 11+ app includes live streams of all of KARE 11's newscasts. You'll also find on-demand replays of newscasts; the latest from KARE 11 Investigates, Breaking the News and the Land of 10,000 Stories; exclusive programs like Verify and HeartThreads; and Minnesota sports talk from our partners at Locked On Minnesota.
- Add KARE 11+ on Roku here or by searching for KARE 11 in the Roku Channel Store.
- Add KARE 11+ on Fire TV here or by searching for KARE 11 in the Amazon App Store.
- Learn more about KARE 11+ here.