William G. v. Pataki was filed on behalf of parolees with serious mental illnesses and substance abuse problems who are languishing in jail, waiting for state-funded treatment services to become available. The parolees are being held in New York City jails for alleged technical violations of their parole, such as a failure to show up for an appointment with their parole officer or committing misdemeanors while on parole. State officials have told them that they can be released for treatment, but not enough treatment facilities exist to help them.

The lawsuit seeks to rectify this, by improving access to MICA (mentally ill, chemically addicted) services. Unlike residential treatment programs for parole detainees with only substance abuse problems, MICA programs are in very short supply.

Frustrated by the long wait in New York City jails, and the dim prospect of actually receiving treatment, many of these mentally ill parolees with substance abuse problems ultimately are forced into agreeing to months of additional jail or prison time. They are then released into the community, often without ever receiving the services that they need and want.

The plaintiff’s complaint alleges civil right violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act—specifically, that:

  • Parole violators with serious mental illnesses, in jail for technical violations or committing petty crimes, are unfairly incarcerated while waiting for openings in the very few programs that the state makes available to help them. The complaint alleges that this approach is discriminatory and unfairly punitive, denies people care, and that incarceration can exacerbate mental illness, making recovery and a successful transition back to the community even more difficult for parolees with serious mental illnesses.
  • Instead of funding the community placements that plaintiffs need, New York pays to “rent” beds for plaintiffs at New York City jails. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that the necessary MICA services could easily be paid for by redirecting funds devoted to incarceration, and by taking advantage of other resources that are available once plaintiffs are living in the community.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Urban Justice Center, the Legal Aid Society of New York and the private law firm Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman, LLP.


U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York


October 20, 2003


Closed (November 2006)