Thousands of violent incidents occur every year in California’s psychiatric hospitals, but very few are treated as crimes, reports NPR as part of an ongoing series. An exception was last year’s murder of a hospital staffer by a patient. It’s been a challenge for the criminal justice and mental health systems to figure out how to deal with assaults by the mentally ill.
Violence in California’s psychiatric hospitals has been increasing, partly because the kind of patients treated at the hospitals has changed. Generally, people with mental illness aren’t dangerous. These days, 90 percent of the patients in California’s mental hospitals are committed by the criminal justice system. They’ve been found not guilty by reason of insanity, for example, or incompetent to stand trial. The spike in violence followed the adoption of a plan imposed by the Justice Department in 2006 and 2007 to remedy “horrifying” cases of abuse and neglect. Treatment improved but, unexpectedly perhaps, violence got worse.