To remedy the problem created by prosecutors (like Chittenden County prosecutor Sarah George) dismissing charges against three allegedly insane killers, the Legislature may consider a bill to hold future likely ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ killers for at least three years, a legislative panel said Friday.
"The proposed bill sets a three-year mental health facility commitment period for those found not guilty by reason of insanity. It also requires officials to hold a hearing before the Department of Mental Health before the offender can leave treatment.
"That would allow at least the state to have some role in ensuring public safety in the future should that person be released from the mental health system," said Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County, who helped write the bill.
State mental health officials say the bill opens up a new discussion on where to house offenders who commit the most heinous crimes. If a court requires an offender to be confined, that can conflict with current state laws that require the Department of Mental Health to treat patients in settings which are the least restrictive environment.
"This piece can potentially put us in a very, as I mentioned in my testimony, an untenable position of either being in conflict with a state law or a court order saying you have to keep someone in the hospital and our federal regulation which says they don't have to be in the hospital so you have to discharge," said Vermont Department of Mental Health Deputy Commissioner Mourning Fox.
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