The Fitness-to-Stand-Trial Restoration Program

The Fitness-to-Stand-Trial Restoration Program

The Fitness Restoration Program

Since 2014, the State of Illinois, through the Department of Human Services (IDHS), has funded the center’s Fitness Restoration Program.  The $1.1 M grant, which was recently renewed for an additional three years, allows the center to provide mental health services and wrap-around case management support for persons found unfit to stand trial due to mental illness or cognitive impairment.

In Illinois, a defendant is presumed fit to stand trial and is considered unfit only if his mental or physical condition prevents him from understanding the nature and purpose of the proceedings against him or assisting in his own defense (725 ILCS 5/104-10).  Historically, in Illinois, such persons were often psychiatrically hospitalized. However, through the Fitness Restoration Program, clients participate in services on an outpatient basis and receive psychotherapy and frequent fitness evaluations with the primary goal of restoration to fitness. These fitness clients, who are usually charged with low-level offenses, are allowed to live at home and benefit from the support of their families, friends, and communities.  This least-restrictive environment approach is also in keeping with recent case law and Illinois State Supreme Court findings.

The fitness restoration treatment primarily consists of a curriculum intended to educate the client about the charges against them; the court and its processes; and the roles of judge, attorneys, and other members of the court. The curriculum assists the client to be sufficiently able to navigate the pre-trial and trial process and to participate in his/her own defense.

Student Trainees are Key Members of the Fitness Restoration Team

Student trainees serve as the primary treatment providers for fitness restoration. Each year, the trainee team usually consists of four to five masters- and doctoral-level therapy trainees, one or two diagnostic practicum students, and two pre-doctoral interns under the center’s APA-accredited internship consortium.

Since inception of the Fitness Restoration Program in 2014, 54 clients have received fitness restoration services. At any given time, 15-20 clients are active in the program. Utilization of the program is expected to increase over the three-year period of the current grant renewal and as more judges learn about the program and trust the program as an option to inpatient care. Further, IDHS is working to further expand referrals of juvenile offenders to the program.