Editor’s Note, Jan. 18, 2019: Several stories in this series about Oregon’s handling of people found “guilty except for insanity” contain significant errors. Read this post to learn more about the mistakes we found. We have left the original uncorrected articles below.
Decades after the nation moved away from long-term commitment for people with mental illness, the state of Oregon has freed some people found “guilty except for insanity” in violent crimes, and they later attacked again.
Oregon Should Overhaul Handling of Insanity Defendants, Says Head of Psychiatry Security Review Board
The board’s executive director acknowledged gaps in the system for treating and discharging people found criminally insane and said the Legislature should weigh appointing a task force to consider reforms.
An inquiry from a reader prompted ProPublica to review the underlying data and assertions in stories we and the Malheur Enterprise published in November and December. We found errors of fact and analysis that need to be corrected.
Those freed without ongoing supervision and care because of a state time limit commit crimes at twice the rate as a smaller group freed because the Psychiatric Security Review Board specifically concluded they would not be a danger if on their own, according to a Malheur Enterprise and ProPublica analysis.
The state’s attorney general said the rate of recidivism among defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity is “too high,” and key lawmakers said they plan to rewrite the state’s laws after an analysis by the Malheur Enterprise and ProPublica.
Members of the Psychiatric Security Review Board have said it is not their duty to track what happens to people they set free. But in private, board members and staff pushed to study recidivism and found high rates among people the board frees.
Oregon Board Says Those Found Criminally Insane Rarely Commit New Crimes. The Numbers Say Otherwise.
The Psychiatric Security Review Board questioned how many people it discharged from state custody returned to crime. But it did not share its findings or change policies even as former clients killed or raped.
He Said He Faked Mental Illness to Avoid Prison. Now, Accused in 2 Killings, He’s Sent Back to a State Hospital.
A judge ruled that Anthony Montwheeler was not competent to stand trial for an assault and two murders that prosecutors say he committed just weeks after his release from the Oregon State Hospital.
Last year, Oregon officials tried unsuccessfully to keep secret records on a man found “guilty except for insanity” in a 1996 kidnapping. Now, the state court system is refusing to release a key record in his new murder case even though it's not “legally confidential.”
Oregon Doctors Warned That a Killer and Rapist Would Likely Attack Again. Then the State Released Him.
Charles Longjaw was being held at the Oregon State Hospital after being found insane. Oregon changed its interpretation of the law and he was released, raising questions about how states manage violent offenders with mental illness.
Oregon sued a tiny newspaper to keep records secret relating to the state’s release of defendants found “guilty except for insanity.” The paper prevailed and is using the records to explore a series of troubling cases.
In response to our questions, the Psychiatric Security Review Board explains why danger alone is not enough to keep violent people with mental illness under state jurisdiction.