The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, June 18, 1963, Page Page Two, Image 2

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    Page Two
Summer Nebraskan
Tuesday, June 18, 1963
Mobodv Wonts A Non-ilesodeinit, AAersitdS iscop
B w Bl
EDITORS NOTE: Jndr Harring
ton, Hoond place Individual wln
aer In the Hearst national wrltlnc
competition, and Lincoln senior In
the School of Journalism, wrote the
Mlawlnff article which concerna
ea-retdeHt mental escapees. Thla
lory, which waa written for the
tlepta reporting elasa. waa car
ried In man? newapanera acrosa
the eountrr and we are re-mn-nlnff
It la the Summer Nebraskan
beeanaa of the Interesting approach
to the subject and also because the
Governor and other state leals
Intora -art attempting to promote
legislation to alleviate the mental
escapee problem la Nebraska.
By Judy Harrington
Patrolman Donald Krull
took no special precautions
when he stopped a speeding
car near Seward, Nebras
ka. One of the two men in
the car pulled a gun, shot
and' wounded Krull, and '
fled.':
"That was June 29, 1962.
The. previous day, the pair
had broken out of the se
curity section of the James
town, North Dakota, men
tal hospital.
No law officer in Nebras
ka could have known he
should approach that car
with caution. No bulletins
on ' these escapes had
reached Nebraska.
The two men fled to Colo
rado where one was killed
in a brief gun battle with a
second patrolman; the oth
er is now in the Nebraska
State Penitentiary.
This is an extreme case.
But daily, somewhere, a
law officer is likely to en
counter a non-resident men
tal escapee and what may
happen to that escapee
seems to bear out the so
cial fact nobody wants a
mental escapee.
Law Loopholes
For the mental escapee
who just wanders across
the road from the institu
tion, return is easy. If he
is found farther out in the
state, negotiation may be
necessary to recommit him.
But once he finds has way
to another state he falls
between the cracks of the
law.
This happens in Nebraska
and feasibly could happen
in 24 other states, those
which are not members of
a relatively new agreement
for the care and return of
escapees the Interstate
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RtSISTERED JEWELERS AMERICAN GEM SOCIETY
Compact on Mental Health.
This agreement has been
discussed in Nebraska. But
while there has been no
known opposition to such a
compact neither has there
been a push for its accept
ance. What evidence is there
now that the mental es
capee slips through the re
sponsible limits of existing
organizations?
Law officers understand
this problem. For they, at
least initially, handle es
capees. One Nebraska pa
trolman who has encoun
tered five such cases, de
scribes these two instances.
Last fall a Nevada mental
escapee was arrested as a
vagrant near Lincoln. Ne
vada authorities said they
would accept financial re
sponsibility for the man at
the Nevada line. "What
. were we to do?" the patrol
man asked. "No one there
pays to get him back and
the man is still wandering
about here."
Escapee Wanders
Another escapee was ap
prehended on West 0, near
Lincoln. The officer said the
man was unintelligible but
could write enough words
to indicate that he was from
a hospital in .Wisconsin.
When notified, Wisconsin
authorities said he was not
wanted in their state. After
a few nights at the city
mission, the man left Lin
coln on his own.
One officer confided that
he is particularly hesitant
to stop a hitch-hiker, es
pecially if he's acting a bit
strange. "Once you get
them, you don't know what
to do with them," he said.
"If he looks like he's head
ed out of the state, let him
go. That's where he'll wind
up anyway."
Others may get only in
terrogation in the lawman's
car, some a trip to the
county attorney's office,
and some a partial examin
ation at a hospital. Most will
be sent on their way if they
do not appear to be imme
diately dangerous.
Generally records are not
available to show this be
cause there may never be
a charge filed.
"But every sheriff knows
ON CAMPUS
185 PIAN0
it happens," an outstate
county sheriff said. "We
send them on their way."
Sometimes, this means
with money for transporta
tion. For instance, a man
without shoes was reported
injured near a railroad
track several winters ago.
Left Alone
His possessions were a
letter of transfer from a
Nebraska state hospital to
a hospital in Chicago, a'
pack of drugs, and fare to
travel to Chicago. But by
himself he hadn't made it
20 miles from the hospital.
After his injury, one hos
pital refused his admission.
A second treated him for
three days and released him
to a county attorney. Again,
' he was given travel fare out
of the state.
Why the reluctance to ac
cept responsibility?
A sheriff cited this ex
ample in reply:
"If a man from Idaho, a
mental escapee, is found
around here, I would con
tact the Idaho authorities.
Most likely they, or any
other state, would be reluc
tant to bear the expense of
covering this man. If our
sanity board commits him
to the state hospital, it will
cost our county about $180
a month for his keep. In
the last year we've paid
over $60,000 for our own pa
tients. How can we afford
one not originally from our
jurisdiction. Where does the
out-of-state escapee go?"
The sheriff and other law
men answered their own
question the escapee will
probably go to the county
or state line where he be
comes someone else's deli
cate problem.
Another Solution
But hospital authorities
offer another solution. Many
say that if the out-of-stater
is committed here, that ne
gotiation will begin with the
home state for his return.
But what happens if the
other states refuses, or if
transaction takes a number
of months?
The sheriff said again:
"When you call the state
hospital, they ask three
questions: Male or female?
How old? And who's going
to pay?
The Nebraska statute pro
vides only:
"If any patient shall' es-"
cape from a state hospital
for mentally ill, the super
intendent shall order that
an immediate search be
made ... if he is not soon
found, the superintendent
shall notify his home county
board of mental health. If
the patient is found in their
county, the board members
shall order him to be re
turned and shall issue their
warrant therefore ... un
less the patient shall be dis
charged or unless for good
reasons they shall provide
otherwise for his care . . "
Nebraska Attorney Gen
eral Clarence M y e r as
sessed the statute this way:
"The law is vague and is
likely to stay so."
Most of those who man
age state mental institu
tions (and Veterans hospi
tals since they also have
mental wards) say there
are few problems attached
to the proper return of such
escapees. But between
these answers and actual
practice there lies that gap
through which the escapee
slips.
Escapee Unnoticed
For that period of time
after his escape he is unat
tended and unnoticed un
noticed until someone calls
the sheriff's office to say,
"There's a man picking up
pebbles on the highway
ANNOUNCEMENT!
'Mi
DICK OLSON
Now Associated
With
Bob's
Barber Shop
435-9323 1313 P
. JJ ft1
' -"ZSt"' 'I
south of here. He says they
are black diamonds. Some
one ought to have a look at
him."
f that someone is a doc
tor in a mental institution,
then what happens?
Dr. Richard Gray, superin
tendent of the Nebraska
State Hospital, said, "There
is a fair exchange mehod
with out-of-state escapees.
We transfer them after tem
porary commitment here.
Of course, we don't want to
assume permanent financial
responsibility for another
stale's patient, so we trans
fer him as soon as it is con
venient. We may send one
of our staff members with
him, or, if he's well enough,
we may send him by bus or
tra;-"
Veterans Hospital Direc
tor Dr. J. M. Boykin of Lin
coln said, "If we have to
care for an out-of-state es
capee it's an unanticipated'
expense. We will pay to send
him home and we will pay
- to retrieve one of our es
capees if he's within the
state. But if he goes to Kan
sas, for instance, they have
to pay if we're to get him
back."
A police chief supported
the transfer method. "If we
have an out-of-state escapee
and negotiation with that
state looks like it may t!:e
weeks," he said, "we'!! find
someone to file a complaint,
have the person taken be
fore the county sanity board
and committed here. Then
correspondence is the re
sponsibility of the hospital.
Transaction with some
states is hopeless. We might
turn him loose if he doesn't
look dangerous."
Another officer suggested
it would be considerable sav
ing to spnd .y $1,000 a
year to transfer patients un
der the, compact than the
$10,000 to prosecute an es
capee who is ignored until,
he commits a crime.
Jailing Policy
Another outstate sheriff
said his policy has been to
jail mental escapees and
contact the sanity board.
"But if they're not danger
ous, we might give them a
bus ticket so they'd leave.
The bulletins we see from
other states say transporta
tion is guaranteed only if
, ,he's f ound in, .his , , h o m e
state. Once that escapee
gets out of the state, he's
as good as free."
But other examples are
available.
A Nebraska escapee
wound up in Missouri. The
home county sheriff said,
"We did not want to be re
sponsible for what that boy
might do in Missouri so I
went and got him."
The same sheriff traveled
to Wyoming to recover a
Nebraska escapee and the
expense was borne by the
patient's guardian.
But what happens when
this officer apprehends an
other state's escapees?
"We'll try to find tran
sportation for him," he
said. "If he's not too bad,
we may turn him loose.
And granted, sometimes it's
just at the county line. The
county will jump on me if
I leave him around here."
Extradition Problem
Don Brock pointed to the
extradition problem with
mental escapees. Laws
most generally say that no
person is subject to extra
dition (mandatory return to
against him in the state
a state) until a criminal
charge has been made
which demands jurisdiction
of him. Only to those who
have been declared crimi
nally insane could this ap
ply. .
"The law concerning ap
prehension and return of
mental patients is inade
quate," Brock said. "Per-
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haps escape should be
made a felony so there
would be responsibility for
return. Or make a uni
form code, reciprocal
agreements between all,
states."
Those who support the
interstate compact, like Dr.
Harold Freund, clinical di
rector of the state hospital
in Fulton, Missouri, would
agree with Brock.
"Between compact states
exchange works f 1 n e,"
Freund said. "Expense is
charged to the returning
state. Negotiation is much
more difficult with a non
compact state. If a guard
ian will not pay the expense
of return, then we assume
responsibility at the state
line. Illinois, for example,
is not a compact state, so
we may meet them on a
bridge at the state line for
exchange."
South Dakota is Nebras
ka's only other compact
neighbor.
Dr. Cecil Baker of the
Yankton State Hospital
said, "If our escapee is ap
prehended in another state,
it becomes a matter of in
agreeable to all institutions
involved, he may be re
turned. On the other hand,
he may not."
Provides for Return
The compact does not ob
ligate return, only provides
for it. The best interests of
the patient and the hospi
tals are paramount to the
mandatory return to the
home state. Exchange be
tween noncompact states or
one compact member and
a noncompact state takes
.place more by chance than
by prearranged agreement,
it would appear.
Dr. James O. Cromwell,
Iowa commissioner of men
tal health, said "If a Nebras
ka patient winds up in Iowa
and is dangerous, we will
commit him and contact Ne
braska authorities. If he is
to be returned, we will bear
expenses. Of course, if he's
not dangerous, we may nev
er have picked him up."
Kansas Director of Insti
tutional Management, Dr.
Robert A. Haines, said the
sending state must bear ex-
4$ A
X
SH
on West "0'
I 1 "A
pt :e to return Kansas es
capees. "And we would do
the same for another state,
once we verify residence."
(But here a$ ' , a '"spi
tal may list escapees as
"discharged" and former
residence is difficult to es
tablish.) More effort seems to be
spent for the return of the
criminally insane.
Dr. J. Douglas Sharpe, as
sistant superintendent for
the Colorado State Hospital
at Pueblo, said, "If the es
capee is a felon, we will go
to the ends of the globe to
recover him. When appre
hended, he will be returned
under police es rt at our
expense.
Handled Individually
"If they are not dangerous
and not a felon, each case
is handled individually. Yes,
sometimes they are released
outright. But each case
should depend on the safety
of the individual and soci
ety." In spite of the intentions
and methods of the law and
hospitals, a great number
of escapees are never re
covered. An accurate com
parison is not possible be
cause bookkeeping varies
from state to state. Roughly,
the comparison for 'Nebras
ka and border states is this:
Nebraska, 1951-1 Ml
Escapes Return
(4 hospitals)
716 474
Colorado. 1957-1961
Escapes Returns
(Colo. State Hosp.)
2,953 2,298
Iowa. 1960-190!
Those on unauth- Returned. ,
orized leave, de- discharged
parted or changed or separated
status.
(Iowa state hosps.)
410 344
South Dakota, 1950-1962
Escapes Returns
(State hosp.)
140 103
Missouri, 1961-1W2
Those on unauth- Returns
orized absence
(5 state hosps.)
492 415
Kansas. 1961-1962
Escapes Returns
' 557 '
(3 state hosps.) "Practically all"
The Missouri statistician
said that under the inter
state compact, fiscal year
1961-62, Missouri received
85 escapees who were legal
Missouri residents and
transferred 20 back to home
states under compact pro
visons."
Those provisions were
first approved in 1955 by
the Northeast State Govern
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ments Conference on Men-
tal Health and has been
adopted by 25 states. The
compact is in the form of
a legally binding agreement
among party states, to be
adhered to by uniform rati
fication by the legislatures.
It outlines procedures on
escape bulletins, jailing,
commitment, transfer and
cost. Whh no state com
mits itself to provide space
and treatment if facilutes
are unavailable, the com
pect does declare that no
person in need of care
shall be denied it on the
ground that his legal resi
dence or citizenship is else
where. Parties to the compact say
the results have been more
satisfactory futures for the
patients and more adequate
protection of the public safe
-ty.
Interstate Compact
Is the Interstate Compact
on Mental Health advan
tageous? Does it grout the
cracks in state laws? And,
if so, does Nebraska need
it?
Dr. Cecil Wittson, direc
tor of the Nebraska Psychi
atric Institute, agrees that
the compact would be help
ful, "but maybe not as
necessary here as in some
other states."
"Nebraska law is not spe
cific," Wittson said, "but
we have been liberal about
the care of all patients. We
can and do admit out-of-staters
who can't afford it
otherwise. The fear is that
we would be taking care
of more out-of-staters than
we would normally."
Wittson said he had tried
to introduce the compact
proposal before the legisla
ture four years ago and that
it is under study again.
"The compact as a hu
mane purpose," he said,
"and when accepted by the
country as a whole, it would
pay dividends both in dol
lar terms and in terms of
better care."
Meanwhile, the calls come
in to police and sheriff of
fices: "There's a fellow
picking up pebbles on the
highway south of here. He
says they are black dia
monds. Someone ought to
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