The 8th Judicial District Larimer County Competency Docket Team has won the 2022 Fort Collins Human Relations Award in the Organization Category from the City of Fort Collins Human Relations Commission.
The commission has sponsored the awards for over four decades that celebrate individuals and organizations advancing equity and social justice in our community.
The Competency Docket Team focuses on underserved populations with mental health issues that are involved in the criminal justice system. Often competency issues are raised for these persons during court proceedings, impeding their ability to have a fair and speedy trial. Because of these barriers, many of these defendants get buried in the labyrinth of the criminal justice system.
The docket team was created by the 8 th Judicial District and is also the first program of its kind in Colorado. It was formed through the work of many community stakeholders, law enforcement, the courts, and those working in criminal justice. The groundbreaking approach of the team has since become a model for the state with other jurisdictions exploring ways to duplicate the program.
The team is led by 8th Judicial District Chief Judge Susan Blanco and meets weekly to approach each case individually to address specific obstructions for the defendant, the community, and the criminal justice process.
A few of those obstructions include a defendant’s instability, lack of financial resources, recidivism, public safety issues, and long waiting lists for mental health evaluations, which lead to longer, more expensive time in local jails.
As many as 25% of the defendants on the Competency Docket are experiencing homelessness and the team works toward providing referrals and other resources. Since its inception, 159 defendants have been served, dramatically decreasing their time in jail, and reducing jail expenses, while ensuring they don’t become lost in the criminal justice system.
The team also works to obtain the services, resources, and support these underserved populations need such as medication, housing, therapy, and basic needs. They also transport some of them to and from the court, evaluations, and restorative services. The continuum of services provided gives these populations the resources they need when their mental health issues are at their highest.