Members of the Washington State Senate voted unanimously in favor of a bill to include “county of origin” language in laws regarding the release of violent, mentally ill individuals. Senate Bill 5105, sponsored by Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, would forbid the state’s two mental hospitals from allowing the conditional release of a patient committed as criminally insane unless that person is released into the county which ordered the commitment, with some exceptions.
“In 2007 my prison-reform bill helped end Pierce County’s tenure as the state’s dumping ground for felons, but last year I found several problems regarding mentally-ill individuals who commit violent acts but are found not guilty by reason of insanity,” Carrell said. “Even though a person may commit an extremely violent act, if he or she is sent to one of the two state hospitals for treatment and is subsequently released, there is nothing in current law requiring that person to be sent back to his or her county of origin. Senate Bill 5105 will help.”
Similar to what Carrell did in his prison reform bill, exceptions are available if the state hospital determines that the county of origin would be inappropriate considering any court-issued protection orders, victim-safety concerns, the availability of appropriate treatment, negative influences on the person, or the location of family or other persons or organizations offering support to the patient.
“More than 40 percent of the committed individuals who were found not guilty of a violent crime by reason of insanity are released into Pierce County,” Carrell said, “but less than 20 percent of those individuals came from Pierce County. It’s time for other counties to shoulder a fair share of these individuals upon their release and take some of the burden off Pierce County.”
SB 5105 will now be considered by the House of Representatives.