Advocates: People held at mental hospitals unnecessarily

West Virginia
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Disability rights advocates say state-owned psychiatric hospitals in West Virginia are confining forensic patients for years after they are well. Forensic patients are those who engage in criminal behavior but are found not guilty by reason of mental illness.

The Register-Herald reports the problem was discovered after Sharpe Hospital lost permission to accept Medicare and Medicaid. Disability Rights of West Virginia began looking into Sharpe and discovered that it and other state-owned hospitals are holding forensic patients for no medical reason.

The group’s legal director is Jeremiah Underhill. He says holding these people violates their civil rights and wastes taxpayer money. State law gives judges the power to decide when someone can be released.

Underhill believes elected judges are keeping people restrained in order to look “tough on crime.”

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