Presence of ‘Criminally Insane’ at Mental Hospitals Compromises Care for Mentally Ill
California's mental hospitals "have, in effect, turned into prisons for those who plead insanity," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial states. Because the state's "three strikes law" encourages defendants to plead insanity when facing lengthy prison sentences, the number of criminally insane patients at Napa State Hospital, for example, has "more than doubled" since 1995. As a result, Napa State has become a "prison-like fortress that crams both the mentally ill and the criminally insane into overcrowded and understaffed wards." There, "patient-on-patient assaults have become a near daily experience" and the hospital's "tiny staff ... cannot control the violent inmates." The hospital's "inadequate operating budget" and "dangerous conditions" have caused it to "fail to attract skilled psychiatric professionals," leaving a staff that has "only minimal experience and the most rudimentary training in handling the criminally insane." The editorial concludes, "Those who suffer from mental illness have not committed crimes. They should not be punished. Yet it is they who have become the victims of this sorry state of neglect" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.