Psychiatric Review Board falls short

Oregon’s Psychiatric Security Review Board has failed Oregonians. Its main mission, according to its own website, is to protect the public from those criminals who are found guilty except for insanity. It does not do that, and it has failed to study the issue in any serious way.

If it had, it might have discovered that 35 percent of people it releases from supervision commit another crime within three years, according to the Malheur Enterprise newspaper and the nonprofit news organization Pro Publica.

Instead, it calculates its recidivism rate only on those currently under supervision, and in that group the recidivism rate is a mere 0.46 of 1 percent.

The board manages prisoners who have been sent to the Oregon State Hospital rather than to prison after committing what can be horrific crimes.

As one example, the hospital is home to Joshua Webb, a Colton man who pleaded guilty except for insanity in the 2017 murder of his mother, whose severed head he then took to a grocery store where he stabbed someone else.

Unfortunately, the board doesn’t track what its former patients do. Had they done so, its members might not have been surprised in January 2017 when Anthony Montwheeler stabbed an ex-wife to death and killed another man in a head-on collision while fleeing police near Ontario. The board had released Montwheeler from custody the previous month after he claimed to have been faking mental illness for 20 years in its custody.

Thanks to the Enterprise, Pro Publica and Oregon’s public records law, the board’s problems are now very public, indeed. While it has discussed studying its former charges’ recidivism rates and even made a stab at doing so, the work has never been completed, a fact it has worked hard to hide in recent months, suing the Enterprise to keep its records secret.

It can hide no longer. After Gov. Kate Brown ordered the board to release the records, it did so.

Now it’s up to the Oregon Legislature to take matters into its own hands. At the least, the board should be required to do a good recidivism study and make its findings public. And, depending upon what it finds, the board should acknowledge its problems and change its practices accordingly.

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