Lawmakers are calling for reforms at the Whiting Forensic Division, in part, after the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters uncovered allegations of patient abuse and that hospital staff allowed patients, including one man found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, to play violent video games.
Meanwhile, the father of Johanna Justin-Jinich, a Wesleyan student shot and killed at an off-campus bookstore in 2009 by Stephen Morgan, a current patient at the facility, spoke out for the first time in years.
At a hearing on Friday, the Connecticut Legislature Public Health Committee discussed the possibility of forming a task force of experts from outside Whiting.
The commissioner of the agency that oversees Whiting told the Connecticut Legislature Public Health Committee that Whiting currently has an internal task force that includes patients and staff. She said they are examining some of the issues uncovered over the last few years, but some legislators want more accountability and are concerned about the agency policing itself.
Kathy Flaherty, the executive director of an agency providing legal services for patients at Whiting is not so sure that another task force would be effective.
“You form a task force, all of this falls off the front page, it's no longer on the six o’clock news people forget about it and nothing ever changes," said Flaherty.
Daniel Jinich, Johanna Justin-Jinich's father, wants as much independent oversight of Whiting as possible.
Just before the hearing on the Whiting task force got underway, Jinich addressed a different panel reviewing Morgan’s conduct, and his doctor’s plan to eventually move him to a less restrictive setting.
"We flew in late last night from Denver to be present at this hearing, my daughter Johanna Justin-Jinich could not be here because she was shot seven times by Stephen Morgan, your patient," said Jinich.
Morgan, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, has been at Whiting since 2011.
Jinich is questioning the judgment of the people running Whiting after Morgan's possible move to a less restrictive environment and NBC Connecticut reports of alleged patient abuse and violent video games usage.
"We conclude that the Whiting Forensic unit hospital has no credibility, it comes back to trust," Jinich said.
After the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooter's coverage on patients playing violent video games, the agency overseeing Whiting said it got rid of them. A majority of the 37 employees put on leave in the patient abuse case no longer work for the state.
The attorney for Stephen Morgan did not speak outside his hearing. During the hearing, he did point out that Morgan has never attacked a patient or staff member at Whiting, even when he stopped taking his medicine for a while in 2017.