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Wa Lege Day 57: Bill prompted by escape passes

OLYMPIA — Patients at state mental institutions who have been judged criminally insane will be limited in the reasons that they can leave for field trips or other reasons.

The House of Representatives gave final passage Monday to House Bill 2717, which is designed to prevent instances like the escape last September of accused murderer Phillip Paul during an Eastern State Hospital field trip to the Spokane County Fair.

The bill limits patients who have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity from trips away from the hospital that don’t involve medical treatment or a family emergency. It was sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley and received near unanimous support at step of the process. It now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.

Paul, who was found criminally insane for a 1987 murder of a 78-year-old Sunnyside woman, was among a group of about 30 patients on a field trip to the fair when he escaped on Sept. 17. He was captured three days later in Klickitat County.

Sentencing for criminally insane could change

Legislation inspired, at least in part, by criminally insane killer Philip Arnold Paul’s escape from a mental hospital field trip to the Spokane County Fair last fall, is getting a gubernatorial push in Olympia.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is calling for an overhaul of the way mentally ill offenders are sentenced.

Also helping give the proposal a big push is the recent slaying of four Lakewood police officers by a mentally ill offender released against the advice of authorities from an Arkansas facility.

The latest from The Associated Press on the governor’s plan can be found in the extended post: