- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 4, 2005

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Gov. Donald L. Carcieri directed state officials to put a repeat sex offender about to be released from prison in a different institution: the state mental hospital.

Dr. Brandon Krupp, who ran the hospital’s psychiatric services, opposed the order, saying it would not protect the public and could endanger other patients. When his protest went unheeded, he quit.

“Doctors aren’t jailers,” Dr. Krupp said soon after he left his job. “Hospitals aren’t prisons.”

His resignation is a reaction to a growing problem: No one knows what do with sex offenders who seem likely to commit more crimes.

Seventeen states, including Virginia, have laws that allow them to hold sex offenders who have completed their prison terms. More recently, governors in other states have tried to use mental health laws to keep sex offenders in psychiatric hospitals after their prison terms end.

Mr. Carcieri, a Republican governor, directed Rhode Island officials to commit Todd McElroy to the Eleanor Slater Hospital in October, shortly before he was due for parole after serving 16 years of a 42-year sentence for kidnapping and raping a 10-year-old boy.

McElroy, who is schizophrenic, had been held for more than a year in the hospital’s forensic unit, which has prisonlike security. However, Dr. Krupp said McElroy’s schizophrenia is under control and that he no longer belongs in a hospital.

As his parole date neared, McElroy moved voluntarily to a regular unit at the hospital to await a court hearing to determine whether he will be freed. He shares a 16-bed, coed ward with patients who have done nothing wrong. He has access to a day room, a nurses’ station and the outside.

Dr. Krupp and other physicians said McElroy’s confinement is a gross misuse of medical facilities.

The American Psychiatric Association said government officials seem more intent on punishing sex offenders than treating them. Medical guidelines require that people be mentally ill, dangerous because of their illness and capable of being treated before they are committed to a hospital.

Most sex offenders don’t meet those criteria, said Roxanne Lieb, director of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, a state-funded think tank.

“Typically, they are not mentally ill by a traditional definition of the word,” Miss Lieb said. “They don’t have a mental disorder; they don’t have a thinking disorder; they are not psychotic.”

Jeff Neal, Mr. Carcieri’s spokesman, declined to discuss McElroy but acknowledged that mental health laws are not an ideal way to handle sex offenders. He said the governor plans to introduce a bill to increase prison terms and set up electronic monitoring for people who assault children.

McElroy and his attorney declined to discuss his case.

Dr. Krupp said he hopes his resignation will stir public debate and lead to a better solution.

“This isn’t about me wanting this or any other sex offender unfettered, free on the streets,” he said, but “to think that the quick fix for this is to shove them in the hospital is absolutely wrong. It’s neither appropriate nor will it actually get you the safety you want, because we’re not a prison.”

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