The court-ordered release of a potentially violent, mentally ill Texas man after he spent 20 years in a state mental hospital has officials scrambling to figure out how to protect his relatives and the community in a situation prosecutors say points to a blind spot in Texas’s mental health laws, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas’ highest criminal court, in June dismissed a 1990 attempted murder case against Brad Reinke, who was accused of attacking his father with a knife at the family’s Austin home while his mother fought her son off with a baseball bat. Few dispute that Reinke belongs confined.
A judge could decide next week whether Reinke should now be locked up under civil, instead of criminal, laws. The question is whether continuing Reinke’s confinement is legally possible. The confinement dilemma could be more common in the future. Designed mainly as a short-term stop for patients and defendants in need of intensive temporary treatment before being released or moved to less restrictive facilities, the state’s psychiatric hospitals are keeping patients much longer. Some are like Reinke, criminal defendants who have been locked up for years but who will soon reach the legal limit of their confinement in the hospital system, said Michelle Hallee, who handles mental health cases for the Travis County district attorney’s office.