Focus on security at mental health facilities needed

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The recent escape of a murder suspect from the William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital in Weston has raised an alarm about the security in place at mental health facilities that provide evaluations for those awaiting criminal trials.

Labeled as forensic cases, these court-ordered assignments are needed to ensure suspects receive a fair trial, but place mental health providers in a unique situation.

Health care professionals care for the ill, whether their ailment is mental or physical. Because of that, one could expect a hospital to be less restrictive than most prisons or jails.

In the case of the Sharpe Hospital, state officials knew when it was constructed that some people facing criminal charges would be brought there for evaluations.

Money was spent to build safety precautions, including the 15-foot brick wall the alleged murderer scaled to escape.

When you consider that there have only been two escapes in the past year, you’d have to say that it seems the security is working for the most part.

But when a murder suspect escapes and is on the loose for two days, precipitaing a large-scale manhunt, there are plenty of questions to be asked…

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