A Place to Call Home

OPB | June 3, 2008 midnight | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:42 p.m.

How would you react to news that a residential treatment facility for the criminally insane, or mentally ill sex offenders, was to open in your neighborhood?

Residents of the small town of Fossil, Oregon (in Wheeler County) said “no way.” A locked eight bed residential treatment facility for mentally ill sex offenders was proposed for just outside town. The plan became so divisive for their small community that the sheriff had to resign, and there is a movement to recall the district attorney — both of whom supported the plan. Community members expressed many fears — about everything from their safety to a possible decrease in tourism. Supporters pointed to the 15 new jobs this home would bring to the county.

The facility is no longer slated to open near Fossil, but the state needs to find a home for these people somewhere. The Psychiatric Security Review Board — that determines which people who have mental illness (who have also been convicted of crimes and found guilty but for insanity) are candidates for these facilities — says that these individuals are very closely monitored. And state statistics show that the rates of recidivism among people with mental illness are very low. So is the concern greater than the actual threat?

Eighteen new treatment facilities for the criminally insane — ranging from independent apartments to locked homes — are scheduled to open across Oregon by December 2009. An addition 19 facilities are planned for people who are civilly committed — some of whom could be dangerous. Where should they be? How would you react to one opening next door to you? Have you, or a friend or family member, lived in a similar facility? What was your experience like? Were you accepted by your neighborhood? Where do you live now?

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