Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Better off committing a crime?

A 23 year-old man with paranoid schizophrenia says "I'm doing better now. I know what medication to take and when to take it."

And the cost? First he had to beat his father to death with a baseball bat, and then spend the last 5 years locked in a state psychiatric hospital. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, something the article reports is “unusual and very difficult” under Florida law. And yet it was easier than getting help under Florida’s then-too-restrictive commitment law (the Baker Act) before he killed his father just 10 days after administrators released him from a Palm Beach County Mental Health Center. He was released against the advice of two doctors who said Morgan thought the TV was telling him what to do. It is another story with the familiar refrain “His parents worked hard to get him appropriate psychiatric treatment.”

Florida law has been reformed since this man killed his father. But, the question remains whether it is still easier to get an NGRI plea than it is to get treatment.