Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

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:

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Chris Gregoire wants sentencing changes for mentally ill offenders.

At a news conference Wednesday, she said that her proposed new option in the state's justice system would add the charge of guilty and mentally ill. It would allow courts to find a person guilty of a crime and sentence them to prison, instead of a state psychiatric hospital. Gregoire says that they would still receive the mental health treatment they need while in prison.

She also wants people who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity to face a panel that would consider whether the release would harm the community. Both ideas have to be approved by the Legislature. Gregoire reiterated her support for a constitutional amendment that would give judges more leeway to deny bail.

David Wasson oversees coverage of politics and state and local government and assists with editing on the City Desk.

Follow David online: