Jackson v. Indiana, 406 U.S. 715 (1972)

2012-07-17 23:57:47

In Jackson v. Indiana, the United States Supreme Court held that the state may confine a criminal defendant found incompetent to stand trial only for that period reasonably necessary to restore him to competency or to determine that he is not restorable. If it is determined that the person is not restorable, the Court held that he must either be civilly committed (which generally will mean transfer from a criminal forensic hospital to a low-security civil hospital) or released. Because Jackson, a person who was both deaf-mute and mentally retarded, had been hospitalized as incompetent for more than three years on charges of petty theft and was not likely to be restored to competence, the Court ordered his release. Jackson stands for the very important proposition, based on the due process clause, that the nature and duration of confinement must bear ‘‘some reasonable relation’’ to its purpose. Unfortunately, most states have paid no attention to Jackson. Although restoration of competency or a determination of unrestorability should virtually always be possible within six months, defendants found incompetent are routinely confined for much longer periods, especially if their charges are serious. Yet challenges to this practice are rare, despite the willingness of state doctors (who are anxious to free up beds) to bolster them. The states’ blatant violation of Jackson is a situation begging for civil rights litigation.


References and Further Reading

  • Grant, Morris, and J. Reid Meloy, Out of Mind? Out of Sight: The Uncivil Commitment of Permanently Incompetent Criminal Defendants, University of California Davis Law Review 27 (1993): 1–89.

See also Dusky v. U.S., 362 U.S. 402 (1960); Insanity Defense