Rock Island County State’s Attorney Dora Villarreal announced Friday that her office has filed Petitions for Rule to Show Cause for Civil Contempt against the director of Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS).

They concern four separate cases involving inmates who are in need of specialized mental health treatment from State Mental Hospitals, operated by DHS, according to a release from Villareal. Each of the cases involve individuals who have been deemed unfit to stand trial due to a psychiatric conditions and have been ordered to undergo fitness-related therapy in a DHS facility to allow them to participate in their cases.

The four have been waiting in Rock Island County Jail for transfer to a DHS facility from 58 days to as many as 170 days. The four individuals in question are Atavia Davis-Whitfield (21 CF 934), Mark Maston (21 CF 776), Alex Roberts (21 CF 987), and Christian Resch (22 CF 206).

“The duty of the Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office is to ensure the administration of justice in all aspects of each case,” Villareal said in the release. “The people of Rock Island County, our jail staff, and most importantly these individuals, are being denied justice due to the backlog of transfers to DHS facilities. It is unfair to expect correctional staff to provide much needed mental health services to people in need.

“Our duty is to protect both the citizens of Rock Island County and the rights of these individuals in our care,” she said. “DHS has allowed these human beings to languish in jail without treatment, and significantly deteriorate due to the lack of DHS transport.

“It is a disservice to the people in need of mental health care, the victims in these cases who are must wait for resolution, jail staff whose own safety is jeopardized, and the taxpayers who should rightfully expect state agencies to comply with their duties in a timely manner.”

Villareal said she’s following the lead of the Sangamon County State’s Attorney, who has taken similar action against DHS.

Department officials say the COVID pandemic is to blame for an “unprecedented backlog” of about 150 people sitting in county jails throughout the state after being declared temporarily unfit for trial and waiting for a bed at Springfield’s McFarland Mental Health Center or one of the state’s six other psychiatric hospitals, according to the Illinois Times.

“The backlog has been exacerbated by the pandemic’s impact on hospital operations, increasing referrals, limited capacity and severe workforce shortages,” DHS spokesman Patrick Laughlin said in a statement