Friday, March 15, 2019

In wake of award-winning exposé, state official says Oregon should overhaul handling of insanity defendants

"The state of Oregon needs to overhaul the way it handles people found guilty except for insanity and better track what happens to them once they are released from state jurisdiction, the head of the agency that supervises such defendants said," Les Zaitz reports for the Malheur Enterprise in Vale. "In an interview, Alison Bort, executive director of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board, acknowledged gaps in the system for treating and discharging people found criminally insane and said the state Legislature should consider appointing a state task force to weigh reforms."

Les Zaitz
Zaitz, working with ProPublica, brought the issue to light in 2017 with his "Deadly Decisions" package, about a state hospital's release of a man later arrested for murdering two people. The package earned the Enterprise a 2017 Investigative Reporters & Editors Award in the Freedom of Information category, and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues' 2017 Tom and Pat Gish Award. (Nominations for the 2018 Gish Award are due April 15.)

Bort, who took over the agency last June, said she has proposed a task force to "examine four areas: how defendants get into the system, their treatment while under state jurisdiction, the process for early discharges and then dealing with people once they have been freed," Zaitz reports.

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