This appeal raises issues involving the extent of habeas corpus jurisdiction and the treatment of mentally-disabled prisoners. The habeas trial court held the petitioner was denied parole because the state had no facilities to treat him and ordered the state to involuntarily commit him to the Veterans Administration hospital. The state appeals. 1
In 1956, Fred Griffin, Jr., suffered severe head injuries in an auto accident, and was medically discharged from the army. That same year, while still a minor, he was convicted of murder in Walton County and sentenced to life in prison. Parole was granted in 1970 but was revoked in 1976, for his being absent without leave from a mental hospital and because he was charged with making terroristic threats. He suffers from chronic paranoid schizophrenia.
In this 1986 habeas corpus petition, he claims that he has been denied equal protection because the state refuses to parole him only because there is no appropriate state facility in which he could be housed. Griffin, as a veteran, is entitled to hospitalization for his mental condition through the Veterans Administration, but that federal agency will not admit him until he is released or paroled from the state prison system. It is undisputed that Griffin must be institutionalized because of his condition.
2. Viewing petitioner's claim as challenging the failure of the warden to provide adequate treatment for his mental condition, the trial court attempted to rest jurisdiction of the petitioner's suit under the Mental Health Act, OCGA 37-2-1
et seq. Under OCGA 42-5-52
(d), the Department of Corrections may transfer a mentally-ill petitioner to the custody of the Department of Human Resources until his sanity is restored, and then have him returned to the Department of Corrections for completion of his sentence. 4
In addition, OCGA 17-7-31
provides for treatment of those found guilty but mentally ill or retarded under rules and regulations of the Department of Corrections in cooperation with the Department of Human Resources. Both of these code chapters specifically invoke parts of Chapter 37, providing for mental health.
A perusal of these code provisions reveals a public policy of this state to provide some form of mental treatment to its citizens, including prisoners. 5
Therefore, reliance by the trial court upon the Mental Health Act for jurisdiction to consider the adequacy of the treatment being afforded Lewis by the Department of Corrections, was not error. Whatever remedies may be available to the court under this act, ordering the department to release the petitioner to a federal agency is not among them. But see OCGA 42-5-51
We, therefore, vacate the judgment and remand the case to the trial court for proceedings concerning further treatment of the petitioner. 6
Such proceedings shall be without prejudice to the petitioner's right to pursue any other remedies he may have in a proper suit against the Board of Pardons and Paroles.