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Are Mental Hospital Attacks on the Rise?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 28, 2011 1:10 PM

A 15-year-old female patient on the psychiatric ward at the Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan was sodomized by an 11-year-old patient last month. The young boy has pled guilty and is now awaiting sentencing.

This is a horrifying story, but the fact is that it's not that uncommon--particularly at state facilities that house criminal defendants.

In the last two decades, the criminal justice system has amped up the placement of defendants in state psychiatric hospitals, finding them criminally insane or unfit to stand trial.

California is a good example of how this is playing out on the ground level.

At Napa State Hospital, where 80% of all patients arrived via the criminal justice system, an employee was murdered last October. Then, this month, a fight between two patients left one dead.

Federal statistics show that there has been a sharp rise in assaults at both Napa State and other state psychiatric hospitals across the country, reports NPR.

Hospital administrators and staff point to the hospital's inadequate alarm system, poor staff ratios, and its inability to isolate difficult patients to a special unit, notes NPR.

The fact is that very few government facilities outside of actual prisons are equipped to deal with the criminally insane, who have proven that they are violent. But nothing is being done about it until something drastic happens, such as death or the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

This points to another issue. The girl's mother intends to file a $20 million lawsuit. Instead of waiting around and allowing this to happen, wouldn't it have been more efficient and better for everyone if that $20 million was spent 10 years ago to update state psychiatric hospitals?

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