Recently we received an invoice in the mail for Bear's LSI assessment*, which is required to determine whether or not Bear can go to mental health court.. Bear had told us to expect some paperwork from the person doing the assessment, so we were expecting a questionnaire or requests for documentation regarding his diagnoses... NOT an invoice!
I immediately called the CADC (certified alcohol and drug counselor) who'd done the assessment and sent us the invoice, and asked her why it was being sent to us (Bear is legally an adult and money is tight for us right now). She said Bear had no way to pay for the assessment (true) and generally the family pays for it. I asked what they normally do when an indigent person needs the assessment, and she said, if the person didn't have family that could pay for it, because they were dead or something, then the person just sat in jail. Can you say major guilt trip?!!When I asked her again, she said sometimes, the lawyer might pay for it out of their own pocket, if there's no one else. She then made it very clear that the LSI would not be submitted until the invoice had been paid.
We had a tough decision to make. A big concern was that even if we did pay for the LSI, that Bear would still not be able to attend the mental health court because a first degree felony cannot be considered a "non-violent" crime. Bear says the attorney thinks they may be able to get the charge reduced, but who knows. We decided to talk to Pre-Paid Legal and get some advice regarding our options.
We were connected with a very knowledgeable attorney in the state where Bear is incarcerated, who told us that we had no legal obligation to pay for the LSI (which we knew), but more importantly she told us that if we paid for the assessment then there was a serious chance that the court might decide that Bear had access to someone who could pay his legal bills and he could lose his indigent status and therefore his court appointed attorney. In other words, if we or any other family member paid this 75 dollar invoice, Bear could be on the hook for 75 thousand dollars in legal fees. I need to make sure biofamily is aware of this and doesn't pay this invoice either. She assured us that the court would pay for the LSI.
She also mentioned a very recent addition to Statute 21 regarding mental health care for detainees. Apparently a detainee did not get the mental health care and medications he needed and he ended up seriously harming himself and died. She suggested we mention it Bear's attorney, since Bear has been in jail since the end of July and still hasn't received any mental health care.
Our attorney suggested some wording for what to say to Bear's court appointed attorney (I faxed it since he doesn't return my calls). This is what I sent:
Dear Mr. Attorney,
I have tried to reach you by phone several times, but continue to receive no response, so I have decided to fax you this information.
Recently we received an invoice from Ms. B. S., CADC in the amount of $75.00 for Bear’s court-ordered LSI assessment. I contacted Ms. B. S. to question why we were sent the invoice for Bear’s assessment, and was told that if we did not pay for the LSI she would not submit it, and Bear would be forced to sit in jail indefinitely until the invoice was paid. We are not able to pay for this or any other testing.
Bear is a legal adult and was recognized as indigent by the court, which is how he received the services of yourself, a court-appointed attorney. I’m asking that you use your advocacy skills to seek payment for Ms. B. S. through state funds as well, so that the LSI assessment can be submitted to the court.
I am also concerned that Bear still has not received any medical attention or medication for his well-documented mental illnesses. I understand that a new statute regarding detainees with mental illness went into effect recently, and I hope this will help Bear get the mental health care he requires. Please let me know if there is any additional documentation that I can send you to speed this process, as I am very concerned about his safety and ability to handle himself in court and jail.
Please contact me with any questions and for any needed documentation. Attached is a copy of the invoice we received.
*The LSI-R™ assessment is a quantitative survey of offender attributes and offender situations relevant for making decisions about levels of supervision and treatment. The instrument’s applications include assisting in the allocation of resources, helping to make probation and placement decisions, making appropriate security level classifications, and assessing treatment progress. The 54 LSI–R items are based on legal requirements and include relevant factors for making decisions about risk level and treatment. Probation officers, parole officers, and correctional workers at jails, detention facilities, and correctional facilities complete the semi-structured interview with offenders. They then use the interview together with collateral information to complete a QuikScore™ form. The results are converted to cumulative frequencies on a ColorPlot™ Profile. Users have the option of profiling the Total LSI–R score against the Canadian norms or the U.S. norms.
LSI–R scores are proven to help predict parole outcome, success in correctional halfway houses, institutional misconduct, and recidivism. This predictive validity is partly a result of the method of its construction. The item content was developed to reflect three primary sources: recidivism literature, the professional opinions of probation officers, and the social learning perspective of social behavior. Scores can then be used in conjunction with professional judgment to arrive at valid placement decisions.