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Criminally insane residence disclosure sought

Medford City Council members Friday said they would support changes in the way the criminally insane are released back into the community.

Twenty-two criminally insane individuals, including a murderer and a child rapist, live in foster and group homes in the city as part of conditional releases from state hospitals, but state law bars police from notifying their neighbors of their presence, said Medford Police Chief Randy Schoen.

The state police chiefs' association and the state sheriffs' association are considering a list of changes to recommend to the Legislature this session, which starts Monday.

"We have some concerns about the way these individuals are released," said Schoen, who is a member of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police. "We think some of those concerns can be addressed with legislative solutions."

Council members said once any legislation is in place, they would consider a resolution declaring their support for it.

The state Psychiatric Security Review Board is responsible for determining whether to release a criminally insane individual from a state hospital and where that individual will be subsequently placed based on the hospital's recommendation and an independent third-party evaluation of the patient.

In the summer, a criminally insane man who committed murder 10 years ago in Josephine County was placed in Medford, as was a man who raped and attempted to sodomize a 3-year-old girl, Schoen said.

The 22 criminally insane individuals reside either in the Hazel Center, a secured group home at Hazel Street off North Pacific Highway, or one of seven other foster and group homes scattered in neighborhoods around the city.

He said the public should be notified when a criminally insane individual is released or placed in the city.

In February, the review board began notifying police agencies of the criminally insane's release and placement as well as the crime committed. However, police are prohibited from passing that information on to the public, Schoen said.

Schoen said he wants criminally insane sex offenders to undergo the same risk rating system as other sex offenders. Currently, criminally insane sex offenders are not subject to the "predatory" label, which puts into motion a mechanism of public notification of the offender's presence in a community.

An individual under PSRB sometimes is released with less supervision and restrictions than a convict on probation, Schoen said.

"I'm not trying to create public alarm," Schoen said. "I also want to do everything I can to inform the public and reduce risks to their safety."

MaryClaire Buckley, PSRB executive director, said the board has been responsive to concerns about community safety. The notification of law enforcement about conditional releases was prompted by a request from police and sheriff's agencies, Buckley said.

"The whole issue implicates a lot of competing factors," she said. "These individuals have a right to privacy and confidentiality, but I'd have to look at specific proposals before I could comment on whether I agree with them or not."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.