OR Paper Finds Inconsistent, Inefficient, Inhumane Insanity-Guilty Plea System


Wayne Richards landed in the Oregon state mental hospital after he stole a scooter from a store and abandoned it across the street. Oregon taxpayers will spend $17,661 every month he stays there, in one of the most expensive and most secure treatment settings the state has to offer, The Oregonian reports. The tab so far is close to $300,000, for one guy who stole a scooter. Richards, who has battled mental illness since he was 11, pleaded guilty except for insanity.

Of the 503 patients at the Oregon State Hospital, 344 have been found guilty except for insanity. Some of them are dangerous, convicted of murder and rape; others are not violent. Nearly 100 have committed low-level felonies or misdemeanors, such as theft or criminal mischief, that might have gotten them probation. Because they pleaded insanity, all will stay in secure wards — often longer than the sentences they would have served in prison. The Oregonian monitored psychiatric security hearings, interviewed patients, advocates, lawyers and judges, and reviewed records obtained under the state open records law. The evidence shows a mental health system that is professionally inconsistent, financially inefficient, and often sadly inhumane. There are no statewide standards for evaluating which defendants should plead the insanity defense. If they do and are then locked up in the state hospital, even stable patients find it difficult to get out. Many who have been determined ready for release remain there for months.


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