MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
We are here concerned with the constitutionality of certain aspects of Indiana's system for pretrial commitment of one accused of crime.
Petitioner, Theon Jackson, is a mentally defective deaf mute with a mental level of a pre-school child. He cannot read, write, or otherwise communicate except through limited sign language. In May 1968, at age 27, he was charged in the Criminal Court of Marion County, Indiana, with separate robberies of two women. The offenses were alleged to have occurred the preceding July. The first involved property (a purse and its contents) of the value of four dollars. The second concerned five dollars in money. The record sheds no light on these charges since, upon receipt of not-guilty pleas from Jackson, the trial court set in motion the Indiana procedures for determining his competency to stand trial. Ind. Ann. Stat. § 9-1706a (Supp. 1971),
On this evidence, the trial court found that Jackson "lack[ed] comprehension sufficient to make his defense," § 9-1706a, and ordered him committed to the Indiana Department of Mental Health until such time as that Department should certify to the court that "the defendant is sane."
Petitioner's counsel then filed a motion for a new trial, contending that there was no evidence that Jackson was "insane," or that he would ever attain a status which the court might regard as "sane" in the sense of competency to stand trial. Counsel argued that Jackson's commitment under these circumstances amounted to a "life sentence" without his ever having been convicted of a crime, and that the commitment therefore deprived Jackson of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection, and constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal the Supreme Court of Indiana affirmed, with one judge dissenting. 253 Ind. 487, 255 N.E.2d 515 (1970). Rehearing was denied, with two judges dissenting. We granted certiorari, 401 U.S. 973 (1971).
INDIANA COMMITMENT PROCEDURES
Section 9-1706a contains both the procedural and substantive requirements for pretrial commitment of incompetent criminal defendants in Indiana. If at any time before submission of the case to the court or jury the trial judge has "reasonable ground" to believe the defendant "to be insane,"
Petitioner's central contention is that the State, in seeking in effect to commit him to a mental institution indefinitely, should have been required to invoke the standards and procedures of Ind. Ann. Stat. § 22-1907, now Ind. Code 16-15-1-3 (1971), governing commitment of "feeble-minded" persons. That section provides that upon application of a "reputable citizen of the county" and accompanying certificate of a reputable physician that a person is "feeble-minded and is not insane or epileptic" (emphasis supplied), a circuit court judge shall appoint two physicians to examine such person. After notice, a hearing is held at which the patient is entitled to be represented by counsel. If the judge determines that the individual is indeed "feeble-minded," he enters an order of commitment and directs the clerk of the court to apply for the person's admission "to the superintendent of the institution for feeble-minded persons located in the district in which said county is situated." A person committed under this section may be released "at any time," provided that "in the judgment of the superintendent, the mental and physical condition of the patient justifies it." § 22-1814, now Ind. Code 16-15-4-12 (1971). The statutes do not define either "feeble-mindedness" or "insanity" as used in § 22-1907. But a statute establishing a special institution for care of such persons, § 22-1801, refers to the duty of the State to provide care for its citizens who are "feeble-minded, and are therefore unable properly to care for themselves."
Scant attention was paid this general civil commitment law by the Indiana courts in the present case. An understanding of it, however, is essential to a full airing of the equal protection claims raised by petitioner. Section 22-1201 (1) defines a "mentally ill person" as one who
Section 22-1201 (2) defines a "psychiatric disorder" to be any mental illness or disease, including any mental deficiency, epilepsy, alcoholism, or drug addiction. Other sections specify procedures for involuntary commitment of "mentally ill" persons that are substantially similar to those for commitment of the feeble-minded. For example, a citizen's sworn statement and the statement of a physician are required. § 22-1212. The circuit court judge, the applicant, and the physician then consult to formulate a treatment plan. § 22-1213. Notice to the individual is required, § 22-1216, and he is examined by two physicians, § 22-1215. There are provisions for temporary commitment. A hearing is held before a judge on the issue of mental illness. §§ 22-1209, 22-1216, 22-1217. The individual has a right of appeal.
Because the evidence established little likelihood of improvement in petitioner's condition, he argues that commitment under § 9-1706a in his case amounted to a commitment for life. This deprived him of equal protection, he contends, because, absent the criminal charges pending against him, the State would have had to proceed under other statutes generally applicable to all other citizens: either the commitment procedures for feeble-minded persons, or those for mentally ill persons. He argues that under these other statutes (1) the decision whether to commit would have been made according to a different standard, (2) if commitment were warranted, applicable standards for release would have been more lenient, (3) if committed under § 22-1907, he could have been assigned to a special institution affording appropriate care, and (4) he would then have been entitled to certain privileges not now available to him.
In Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107 (1966), the Court held that a state prisoner civilly committed at the end of his prison sentence on the finding of a surrogate was denied equal protection when he was deprived of a jury trial that the State made generally available
If criminal conviction and imposition of sentence are insufficient to justify less procedural and substantive protection against indefinite commitment than that generally available to all others, the mere filing of criminal charges surely cannot suffice. This was the precise holding of the Massachusetts Court in Commonwealth v. Druken, 356 Mass. 503, 507, 254 N.E.2d 779, 781 (1969).
Respondent argues, however, that because the record fails to establish affirmatively that Jackson will never improve, his commitment "until sane" is not really an indeterminate one. It is only temporary, pending possible change in his condition. Thus, presumably, it cannot be judged against commitments under other state statutes that are truly indeterminate. The State relies on the lack of "exactitude" with which psychiatry can predict the future course of mental illness, and on the Court's decision in what is claimed to be "a fact situation similar to the case at hand" in Greenwood v. United States, 350 U.S. 366 (1956).
Were the State's factual premise that Jackson's commitment is only temporary a valid one, this might well be a different case. But the record does not support that premise. One of the doctors testified that in his view Jackson would be unable to acquire the substantially improved communication skills that would be necessary for him to participate in any defense. The prognosis for petitioner's developing such skills, he testified, appeared "rather dim." In answer to a question whether Jackson would ever be able to comprehend the charges or participate in his defense, even after commitment and treatment, the doctor said, "I doubt it, I don't believe so." The other psychiatrist testified that even if Jackson were able to develop such skills, he would still be unable to comprehend the proceedings or aid counsel due to his mental deficiency. The interpreter, a supervising teacher at the state school for the deaf, said that he would not be able to serve as an interpreter for Jackson or aid him in participating in a trial, and that the State had no facilities that could, "after a length of time," aid Jackson in so participating. The court also heard petitioner's mother testify that
Nor does Greenwood,
We therefore must turn to the question whether, because of the pendency of the criminal charges that triggered the State's invocation of § 9-1706a, Jackson was deprived of substantial rights to which he would have been entitled under either of the other two state commitment statutes. Baxstrom held that the State cannot withhold from a few the procedural protections or the substantive requirements for commitment that are available to all others. In this case commitment procedures under all three statutes appear substantially similar: notice, examination by two doctors, and a full judicial hearing at which the individual is represented by counsel and can cross-examine witnesses and introduce evidence. Under each of the three statutes, the commitment determination is made by the court alone, and appellate review is available.
In contrast, however, what the State must show to commit a defendant under § 9-1706a, and the circumstances under which an individual so committed may be released, are substantially different from the standards under the other two statutes.
Under § 9-1706a, the State needed to show only Jackson's inability to stand trial. We are unable to say that, on the record before us, Indiana could have civilly committed him as mentally ill under § 22-1209 or committed him as feeble-minded under § 22-1907. The
More important, an individual committed as feeble-minded is eligible for release when his condition "justifies it," § 22-1814, and an individual civilly committed as mentally ill when the "superintendent or administrator
Baxstrom did not deal with the standard for release, but its rationale is applicable here. The harm to the individual is just as great if the State, without reasonable justification, can apply standards making his commitment a permanent one when standards generally applicable to all others afford him a substantial opportunity for early release.
As we noted above, we cannot conclude that pending criminal charges provide a greater justification for different
For reasons closely related to those discussed in Part II above, we also hold that Indiana's indefinite commitment of a criminal defendant solely on account of his incompetency to stand trial does not square with the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process.
A. The Federal System. In the federal criminal system, the constitutional issue posed here has not been encountered precisely because the federal statutes have been construed to require that a mentally incompetent defendant must also be found "dangerous" before he can be committed indefinitely. But the decisions have uniformly articulated the constitutional problems compelling this statutory interpretation.
The federal statute, 18 U. S. C. §§ 4244 to 4246, is not dissimilar to the Indiana law. It provides that a defendant found incompetent to stand trial may be committed "until the accused shall be mentally competent to stand trial or until the pending charges against him are disposed of according to law." § 4246. Section
In Greenwood, the Court upheld the pretrial commitment of a defendant who met all three conditions of § 4247, even though there was little likelihood that he would ever become competent to stand trial. Since Greenwood had not yet stood trial, his commitment was ostensibly under § 4244. By the related release provision, § 4246, he could not have been released until he became competent. But the District Court had in fact applied § 4247, and found specifically that Greenwood would be dangerous if not committed. This Court approved that approach, holding § 4247 applicable before trial as well as to those about to be released from sentence. 350 U. S., at 374. Accordingly, Greenwood was entitled to release when no longer dangerous, § 4248, even if he did not become competent to stand trial and thus did not meet the requirement of § 4246. Under these circumstances, the Court found the commitment constitutional.
Since Greenwood, federal courts without exception have found improper any straightforward application of §§ 4244 and 4246 to a defendant whose chance of attaining competency to stand trial is slim, thus effecting
These decisions have imposed a "rule of reasonableness" upon §§ 4244 and 4246. Without a finding of dangerousness, one committed thereunder can be held only for a "reasonable period of time" necessary to determine whether there is a substantial chance of his attaining the capacity to stand trial in the foreseeable future. If the chances are slight, or if the defendant does not in fact improve, then he must be released or granted a §§ 4247-4248 hearing.
B. The States. Some States
In United States ex rel. Wolfersdorf v. Johnston, 317 F.Supp. 66 (SDNY 1970), an 86-year-old defendant committed for nearly 20 years as incompetent to stand trial on state murder and kidnaping charges applied for federal habeas corpus. He had been found "not dangerous," and suitable for civil commitment. The District Court granted relief. It held that petitioner's incarceration in an institution for the criminally insane constituted cruel and unusual punishment, and that the "shocking circumstances" of his commitment violated the Due Process Clause. The court quoted approvingly the language of Cook v. Ciccone, 312 F. Supp., at 824, concerning the "substantial injustice in keeping an unconvicted person in . . . custody to await trial where it is plainly evident his mental condition will not permit trial within a reasonable period of time."
In a 1970 case virtually indistinguishable from the one before us, the Illinois Supreme Court granted relief to an illiterate deaf mute who had been indicted for murder four years previously but found incompetent to stand trial on account of his inability to communicate, and committed. People ex rel. Myers v. Briggs, 46 Ill.2d 281,
C. This Case. Respondent relies heavily on Greenwood to support Jackson's commitment. That decision is distinguishable. It upheld only the initial commitment without considering directly its duration or the standards for release. It justified the commitment by treating it as if accomplished under allied statutory provisions relating directly to the individual's "insanity" and society's interest in his indefinite commitment, factors not considered in Jackson's case. And it sustained commitment only upon the finding of dangerousness. As Part A, supra, shows, all these elements subsequently have been held not simply sufficient, but necessary, to sustain a commitment like the one involved here.
The States have traditionally exercised broad power to commit persons found to be mentally ill.
We need not address these broad questions here. It is clear that Jackson's commitment rests on proceedings that did not purport to bring into play, indeed did not even consider relevant, any of the articulated bases for
We hold, consequently, that a person charged by a State with a criminal offense who is committed solely on account of his incapacity to proceed to trial cannot be held more than the reasonable period of time necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability that he will attain that capacity in the foreseeable future. If it is determined that this is not the case, then the State must either institute the customary civil commitment proceeding that would be required to commit indefinitely any other citizen, or release the defendant.
These conclusions make it unnecessary for us to reach petitioner's Eighth-Fourteenth Amendment claim.
DISPOSITION OF THE CHARGES
Petitioner also urges that fundamental fairness requires that the charges against him now be dismissed. The thrust of his argument is that the record amply establishes his lack of criminal responsibility at the time the crimes are alleged to have been committed. The Indiana court did not discuss this question. Apparently it believed that by reason of Jackson's incompetency commitment the State was entitled to hold the charges pending indefinitely. On this record, Jackson's claim is a substantial one. For a number of reasons, however, we believe the issue is not sufficiently ripe for ultimate decision by us at this time.
A. Petitioner argues that he has already made out a complete insanity defense. Jackson's criminal responsibility at the time of the alleged offenses, however, is a distinct issue from his competency to stand trial. The competency hearing below was not directed to criminal responsibility, and evidence relevant to it was presented only incidentally.
C. Both courts and commentators have noted the desirability of permitting some proceedings to go forward despite the defendant's incompetency.
Reversed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
"The basic and unifying thread which runs throughout our recommendations is a rejection of the notion that the mere fact of a criminal charge or conviction is a proper basis upon which to build other unnecessary, unprofitable, and essentially unfair distinctions among the mentally ill."
If true, such practice appears at first blush contrary to the mandate of § 22-1907, requiring the court clerk to seek assignment at one of the two special institutions. However, the relevant statutes, including that effecting consolidation of all mental health facilities under one department, have been enacted piecemeal, and older laws often not formally revised. Since the department of mental health has sole discretionary authority to transfer patients between any of the institutions it administers at any time, § 22-5032 (6) and § 22-301, there is evidently adequate statutory authority for consolidating the initial assignment decision.
Moreover, nothing in the record demonstrates that different or better treatment is available at a special institution than at the general facilities for the mentally ill. We are not faced here, as we were in Baxstrom, with commitment to a distinctly penal or maximum-security institution designed for dangerous inmates and not administered by the general state mental health authorities. Therefore, we cannot say that by virtue of his incompetency commitment Jackson has been denied an assignment or appropriate treatment to which those not charged with crimes would generally be entitled.
Similarly, Jackson's incompetency commitment did not deprive him of privileges such as furloughs to which he claims a feeble-mindedness commitment would entitle him. The statutes relate such privileges to particular institutions, not to the method of commitment. Thus patients assigned to the Muscatatuck institution are entitled to furloughs regardless of the statute under which they were committed; and persons committed as feeble-minded would not be entitled to furloughs if assigned to a general mental institution.