Thirteen years after he was sent to Central State Hospital, having pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a misdemeanor charge of breaking a window, Leroy Turner is still there.
Turner's doctors say he is not psychotic and that his drug and alcohol abuse are in remission. But he still spends his days in locked buildings.
Turner is one of 239 people who are in state mental hospitals because of a crime. He is one of the roughly one-quarter of such patients whose crime was a misdemeanor.
Virginia has a relatively large number of people incarcerated in mental hospitals after committing misdemeanors, compared with other states, according to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It also releases a relatively small percentage of patients who were sent to hospitals after pleading insanity to criminal charges, compared with other states.
John N. Follansbee, former medical director at Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, estimated that at least 40 percent of the insanity acquittees at the Fairfax County-based hospital "should be on the street today."
To win the freedom to walk around the hospital or to be released from the forensic buildings, patients who have pleaded insanity to criminal charges must convince the state's Forensic Review Panel that they deserve the opportunity. The forensic review panel also makes recommendations to judges about whether a patient should be released from the hospital.
The 12-member panel must approve any increase in privileges or petition for release unanimously.
It approves fewer than half the petitions it receives.