Oregon Officials Call for Changes in “Criminal Insanity” Law

According to the Oregon Attorney General, the number of people deemed “criminally insane” and who then went on to commit new crimes was too high. Oregon law places those deemed “criminally insane” into the hands of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board for a set time not to exceed the maximum sentence for the crime. The board is required to release people who are no longer considered dangerous because of a mental disorder or no longer have a mental disorder. Only about a quarter of those released are found to no longer be dangerous by a medical professional.

High Recidivism Rates

A Malheur Enterprise-ProPublica analysiscalculated recidivism rates based on outcomes found in the Psychiatric Security Review Board records. The analysis found that 35% of people who were released from psychiatric supervision were charged with a crime again within three years. Most often they were back in a court in less than a year. Many were found to be homeless after leaving state supervision, despite the fact that securing housing is supposed to be a priority. The analysis determined that Oregon released people found not guilty by reason of insanity quicker than nearly every other state in the nation. The state board and not a team of mental health care professionals make the determination that someone is fit to be released.


Oregon officials are looking to extend the time that people are kept under the supervision of the Psychiatric Security Review Board to allow more time for people to receive the correct treatment. However, there may be other solutions that could mitigate the problem. The state should ensure that the treatment given to those under state supervision is of high quality and effective. Increased funding of mental health treatment programs and other assistance, once people are released from supervision, could go a long way toward improving outcomes. In addition, looking at the criminal justice system as a whole, increasing funding for housing and community mental health programs could help prevent the problem before it even begins. Involving mental health professionals in the decision-making process when it comes to releasing someone from supervision is also important.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental illnesses. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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