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Lucas v. Peters

December 1, 2000

TIMOTHY LUCAS AND MELVIN DAWSON, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS
v.
HOWARD A. PETERS III, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, AND NANCY STAPLES, FACILITY DIRECTOR OF THE ELGIN MENTAL HEALTH CENTER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 96 CO 141 The Honorable James F. Henry, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cohen

On April 3, 1995, plaintiff Timothy Lucas was found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI). Pursuant to the provisions of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 1/1 et seq. (West 1998)) (Code of Corrections) and the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (405 ILCS 5/1-100 et seq. (West 1998)) (Mental Health Code), he was committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (the DMHDD). The trial court found Lucas to be eligible for placement in a non-secure setting. The DMHDD placed Lucas at the the William White Cottage (White) at the Elgin Mental Health Center (Elgin).

In July 1996, Lucas filed an eight-count complaint seeking an injunction requiring that the DMHDD consider placing him in a less restrictive facility than White, based on an individual assessment of his dangerousness and clinical needs.

Lucas later amended his complaint to seek relief both on his own behalf and on behalf of a class comprising himself and others found NGRI (NGRIs) approved for placement at non-secure facilities. The complaint alleged that the DMHDD's alleged policy of placing all NGRIs not needing placement in a secure setting into White without an individualized determination that White was the most clinically appropriate environment for the NGRIs violated provisions of the Mental Health Code and also violated the patients' due process rights under the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. XIV).

Subsequent to the filing of the first amended complaint, there was a state government reorganization. The DMHDD was eliminated and its functions were assumed by the Department of Human Services (Department) . Lucas again amended the complaint to substitute the Secretary of the Department, Howard A. Peters III, and the director of the Elgin facility, Nancy Staples, for the DMHDD as defendants. Lucas also added Melvin Dawson as a plaintiff and proposed class representative.

The Department has classified certain of its mental health facilities as "forensic." The patients at the forensic facilities are all NGRIs, criminal defendants found unfit to stand trial (USTs) and patients considered to be behavior management problems. The mental health institutions are also classified as "secure" or "non-secure." William White Cottage, a 38-bed facility at Elgin, is the only forensic facility classified as non-secure. Other non-secure facilities are located at Madden Mental Health Center (Madden), Tinley Park Mental Health Center (Tinley Park) and Reed Mental Health Center (Reed). There is a maximum security facility in Chester that houses both forensic and civil patients.

After a verdict of NGRI, a defendant subject to involuntary admission or in need of inpatient treatment is transferred to the custody of the Department. 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(a) (West 1998). The Department then places the NGRI at one of its mental health facilities. Placement must be in a secure facility unless the court finds that there are compelling reasons for placement elsewhere. 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4(a) (West 1998).

NGRIs, whether they are committed or not, remain under the jurisdiction of the criminal court for a period of time equal to the longest possible sentence for the most serious of the crimes with which they were charged. 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4 (West 1998). The end of this period is known as the "Thiem" date. People v. Thiem, 82 Ill. App. 3d 956, 403 N.E.2d 647 (1980). When institutionalized NGRIs reach the Thiem date, the Department either releases them or recommits them as civil patients, voluntarily or involuntarily as the case may be.

According to the plaintiffs, Madden, Tinley Park and Reed are less restrictive than is White. In its answers, the Department admitted that it "maintains facilities that are substantially less restrictive of physical movement than the William White Cottage, including but not limited to Madden." Patients at the non-forensic facilities are eligible for unsupervised on-grounds passes, which allow the patients to travel around the campus unescorted. At Madden, patients may be allowed to walk around for up to an hour; at Tinley Park, for two hours. At White, the patients are also eligible for unsupervised on-grounds passes; however, the passes only allow the patients to walk between nearby buildings. These walks would only take between 5 and 10 minutes.

The Department generally places civil committees at the non-forensic facility nearest to their homes. The patients living at Madden, Tinley Park and Reed, moreover, are housed in separate pavilions based on the location of their former residence. Each of the pavilions is connected with one or more community health centers that serve that area. These community health centers later provide post-discharge treatment. The NGRIs at White, however, are not housed according to former residence.

According to the complaint, the defendants violated Lucas' and Dawson's rights by assigning them to White without considering whether one of the other non-secure facilities might be more appropriate. Lucas lived in Oak Park before he was committed. Both Reed and Madden are closer to his family and former residence than is Elgin. Dawson lived in Chicago. Tinley Park is closer to his family and former residence than is Elgin.

The plaintiffs further alleged that the director of the Madden facility determined that Lucas could be treated at Madden instead of at White. However, the director made this determination before he learned that placing Lucas at Madden would violate the DMHDD policy of keeping all NGRIs approved for a non-secure setting at White. The defendants have admitted that Lucas would have been placed at Madden if he had been civilly committed rather than adjudicated NGRI.

At trial, the plaintiffs called Dr. Ronald Simmons, who at the time was in charge of all forensic operations for the Department, and Dr. Daniel Hardy, an assistant medical director who works primarily in the forensic treatment program at Elgin. Dr. Simmons, during his examination by the plaintiffs, explained to the court the Department's policy of "segregating" NGRIs from civil patients.

"THE WITNESS: Well, the difference is with an NGRI, the case I have in mind is someone who has been acquitted on a charge of murder or of a violent, violent type of crime, I think that we would assume that the risk for them to act out in this manner is higher than another group of patients who do not have a history of murder.

So in terms of risk management, risk toward proclivity toward violent behavior, I would want to treat them apart from other patients.

THE COURT: But both civil and NGRI or UST they are not going to be recommended for non-secure setting if they're still considered a risk?

THE WITNESS: That's correct.

THE COURT: So once they are at the point where there's been a clinical determination that they are no longer a threat to themselves or others, why is there a differentiation in your mind then between the civil and NGRI patients?

The decision has been made that they are no longer a danger.

I don't care what they might have done. That's past history. If they are still a danger, they are not supposed to be in a non-secure setting in either situation.

THE WITNESS: Correct. Yes. That's correct.

THE COURT: What's the reason for this policy?

THE WITNESS: I don't know.

THE COURT: Who does?

THE WITNESS: I can't answer that.

THE COURT: You have been there since 1982, is that right?

THE WITNESS: Yes.

THE COURT: You haven't an inclination as to what's ...


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