Eastern State Hospital — a Washington state mental institution which lists as a core value "empowerment of patients" — empowered patients this week by having 11 staff members take 31 of them to the county fair. Rides were ridden, hay was trodden upon, and things that are typically neither fried nor impaled upon sticks were eaten fried on sticks. So it went great.
What? Oh, yeah. That thing. Yeah, if you want to get all "technical" on Eastern State Hospital, an insane killer escaped.
Paul was committed after he was acquitted by reason of insanity in the 1987 slaying of an elderly woman in Sunnyside. He soaked the woman's body in gasoline to throw off search dogs and buried the remains in her flower garden. He reportedly said voices in his head told him she was a witch.
Hopefully nobody at the fair looks like a witch. Anyway, there's no way that Eastern State Hospital could have known that staunch Exodus fan Phillip Arnold Paul would escape.
In Paul's 1991 escape, he walked away from custody during a day trip was captured at the western Spokane County line. He attacked a sheriff's deputy in the jail booking area, knocking him unconscious and separating his shoulder, and was convicted of first-degree escape and second-degree assault.
I mean, other than that. Get off of Eastern State Hospital's back. They took reasonable protective measures, didn't they?
Thirty-one patients were on the trip with 11 staff members.
. . . .
They wear street clothing and need not all stay together, but staff members are required to keep each patient within eyesight at all times.
Oh, well then. As long as the 11 government employees are supposed to keep an eye on the 31 criminally insane people in street clothing on a crowded fairground, that's just fine. When you are taking a field trip with folks who have been involuntarily committed for torching old women who might or might not be witches into a noisy, crowded, busy place where they can disappear in an instant, it's totally reasonable to have a 11-probably-not-pyromaniac-killer to 31-pyromaniac-killer ratio. Haven't you heard of zone defense?
Look, as a crazy person, married to a mental health professional, I respect the concept that crazy people can in some instances be rehabilitated and that it is medieval to lock them in a hole forever. But — I have to admit that I always have grave doubts when mental health professionals assert that Arnie the Axe Murderer is all better and safe now. This is even more true when Arnie is in a government facility. I know most mental health professionals — including government ones — would never fudge, and will consider public safety. But there must be enormous pressure to (1) believe that what you are doing actually has an impact on these suffering people, and can help them, (2) believe that redemption is possible, (3) show the world (and the people who write your budget, and pay your salary, and hire you) that you are doing something that works. Eastern State Hospital says that the violent mentally ill can only go to fairs if they are "cleared by a treatment team of six to 12 clinicians, according to an extensive checklist." But what quality control of that process is there? And what pressures are brought to bear upon the people using that process?
Also, do you think that just maybe Eastern State Hospital could have, I don't know, gotten a few room mothers or something?
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