Bill Summary for H 781 (2019-2020)

Summary date: 

Apr 16 2019

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2019-2020 Session
House Bill 781 (Public) Filed Tuesday, April 16, 2019
AN ACT TO DIRECT THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY TO STUDY CONFINEMENT OF PERSONS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS.
Intro. by Insko, Harrison, Black, Montgomery.

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Bill summary

Enacts new GS 148-23.3 to prohibit housing an inmate with serious mental illness in solitary confinement except in exigent circumstances (circumstances that pose an immediate and substantial threat to the safety of an inmate or others) and only when placement in restrictive housing will significantly reduce the safety threat that created the exigent circumstances. Defines serious mental illness as a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder; a diagnosis of a personality disorder, anxiety disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder that results in a significant functional impairment; or a diagnosis of an intellectual or developmental disability, a traumatic brain injury, or other cognitive disorder that results in a significant functional impairment. Also defines mental health professional, significant functional impairment, and solitary confinement as they are used in the statute. When exigent circumstances do exist, prohibits housing the inmate in restrictive housing for more than 15 days without an evaluation by a mental health professional to determine whether the inmate should be moved to a more appropriate setting. Requires the inmate to be removed from restrictive housing within 24 hours of the determination and placed in a therapeutic diversion unit or an inpatient facility when the professional determines that continued housing in restrictive housing poses a serious risk of harm to the inmate.

Enacts new GS 143B-707.5 to require the Department of Public Safety (DPS), beginning July 1, 2021, to report annually to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety on six pieces of information related to prisoners with mental illness, including the total number of incarcerated individuals with a diagnosed mental illness, average length of stay in restricted housing of inmates with mental illness and the use of therapeutic diversion units. 

The above provisions are effective October 1, 2019.

Requires DPS to review and update the Safe Alternatives to Segregation initiative conducted by the VERA Institute of Justice in order to make recommendations to implement a program of intensive outpatient services such as treatment malls for inmates diagnosed with mental illness and report findings and recommendations to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety by February 1, 2020.

Requires DPS to study ways to attract and retain qualified staff for all prison positions including correctional officers and behavioral health specialists including specified topics such as assessing the feasibility and efficacy of across-the-board salary increases. Requires a report to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety by March 1, 2020.

Prohibits transferring or converting behavioral health positions located in a State correctional facility that routinely interact with the offender population to another position within the DPS unless the position has been vacant for over 365 days and the Secretary approves the action. Requires any such transfers or conversions to be reported to the specified NCGA committee and division within 30 days of the action. Effective July 1, 2019, and expires July 1, 2021.

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