Shea bill restricting forensic patient outings gains House approval

A bill that would restrict outings for certain mentally ill people in state custody cleared the House of Representatives today with unanimous approval.

Last September, criminally insane killer Phillip Paul walked away from an Eastern State Hospital field trip during family day at the Spokane County Fair. Paul was captured three days later more than 250 miles away in Goldendale, Washington.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, says he authored House Bill 2717 to ensure that dangerous mentally ill patients under state supervision would not be given the ability to participate in future outings that could jeopardize the public’s safety.

“This measure codifies some of the governor’s recommendations and effectively bans such outings, with the exception of very specific and defined circumstances,” said Shea. “This is a big part of the solution and an important bill for Spokane County.”

Under the bill, a person committed to a state facility for the purpose of determining competency, restoring competency, or as the result of a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity, would not be allowed to leave that facility except for:

  • necessary medical or legal proceedings not available in the facility where he or she is confined;
  • visits to the bedside of a member of an immediate family member who is seriously ill; or
  • attendance at the funeral of an immediate family member.

“The escape of Phillip Paul was completely inexcusable. We’re very fortunate that this killer did not use that opportunity to hurt anyone else. This should have never been allowed to happen, and the purpose for this legislation is to make sure it will never happen again,” concluded Shea.

The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications