Oregon releases people found not guilty by reason of insanity from supervision and treatment more quickly than nearly every other state in the nation, but they commit far more crimes after their release than the state has previously led the public to believe, a news investigation has found.
Oregon releases people found not guilty by reason of insanity from supervision and treatment more quickly than nearly every other state in the nation, but they commit far more crimes after their release than the state has previously led the public to believe, according to a joint report from ProPublica and the Malheur (Ore.) Enterprise. The speed at which the state releases the criminally insane from custody is driven by both Oregon’s unique-in-the-nation law and state officials’ expansive interpretation of applicable federal court rulings. Release decisions are made by the Psychiatric Security Review Board. The five-member panel of mental health and probation experts has custody of defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity and oversees their treatment. On its website, the board assures Oregonians that repeat offenses by people it supervises are exceedingly rare events, with only 0.46 percent of defendants committing new crimes each year.
The reality is that about 35 percent of those let out of supervised psychiatric treatment were charged with new crimes within three years of being freed by state officials. Between Jan. 1, 2008, and Oct. 15, 2015, the state freed 220 defendants who had been acquitted of felonies because they could not tell right from wrong or control their actions. About a quarter of them, or 51 people, were charged with attacking others within three years. Twenty-five were charged with lesser crimes. Eighteen others were charged more than three years later, including 12 people for violent incidents. They were charged with felonies about as often as people freed after serving prison terms — both 16 percent — according to the news organizations’ analysis and the Oregon Department of Corrections. The review board made similar findings in an internal report almost three years ago, but never shared it with the public or with other state agencies.