PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Oregon set a record in 2018 for the number of criminal defendants who are so mentally ill they cannot stand trial.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Oregon State Hospital admissions data shows 718 defendants were made patients at the psychiatric facility last year under court orders to treat their mental illnesses until they gained the capacity to assist in their own defense.

The figure was 609 in 2017.

That little-known judicial process, called “aid and assist,” ensnares many homeless people who are charged with crimes, often petty or non-violent offenses.

Every person charged with a crime, no matter how minor, has a constitutional right to understand what is happening in court.

When a person is too mentally ill, a judge can order the defendant to a psychiatric hospital for treatment, halting the criminal case until the person is deemed “restored.”

Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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