Lawmakers are looking at changes to the state’s maximum-security psychiatric facility. The legislation follows revelations of patient abuse, many of which were first reported by NBC Investigates.
“Bill’s life matters. He is the reason we are here today,” Nancy Ailsberg, a member of the Whiting Task Force said.
Alisberg is talking about William Shehadi, the patient who was abused by staff at Whiting Forensic Hospital.
“Bill has lived in Whiting for many years and relies on the staff there for all his needs, for his food, his clothing, his hygiene,” Ailsberg said.
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Many of the patients at Whiting Forensic Hospital have been found innocent of crimes including murder and serious assault by reason of mental defect or mental disease. This bill would take some of the power away from the psychiatric security review board and give it to clinicians.
“There’s this severe bias to hold people way beyond any time they would have served if they were convicted of a crime, and secondly to have the community-based resources,” James Welsh, an investigator with Disability Rights Connecticut, said.
Welsch said these individuals deserve to be in the least restrictive environment.
“The legislation makes the safety and the well-being of the acquitted as a primary concern of the psychiatric security review board,” Welsh said.
“Even if they are suffering from mental illness, even at the time of the crime, do not go that way you will never get out,” Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said.
In addition to a new building, the task force acknowledged that there had to be a change in how cases were reviewed. Instead of every two years, it should be every year.
“If they had gone the Department of Corrections,(DOC) route they would have been out of jail in 15 years and now they’re in Whiting for 35-40 years,” Somers said.
Victims of these violent crimes like former Hartford Police Officer Jill Kidik, who was stabbed in the neck by a mentally ill individual, said the bill would change the parameters under which her attacker was sentenced.
“The idea that my offender could be free even for a few hours at the say of one voice is unacceptable unless you have endured what I have endured,” Kidik said.