Rep. Linda Flores: Rethink criminal home placements

[State Representative Linda Flores Release]
Reopening Controversial Home Points to Need for Legislative Changes
Flores Leads Caucus Agenda Call for Reform

(Salem) A new state report on a controversial home for people found “guilty except for insanity” points to the need for legislative changes according to State Representative Linda Flores (R-Clackamas). “This new development backs up my concern for the lack of training and other uniform standards in state policy for placement of these homes,” Flores said today. “I’m concerned the same problems will soon impact a neighborhood in Clackamas County because this is not isolated to Washington County. We’re seeing these issues crop up across Oregon.”

The House Republican Caucus recently released its 2009 Legislative Agenda which includes giving “local communities a say in the placement of criminally-insane individuals.” Flores has been working on this issue since last fall and attending a special a special Governor’s Taskforce on the siting of homes for patients under supervision by the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB).

Connell House in Cornelius has now been cleared to re-open by the Department of Human Services (DHS) which has determined the state did not have the legal authority to close the home last month. Police and prosecutors were investigating reports of sex and drug related crimes at Connell when one of the occupants escaped. State officials to shut down Connell and sent the residents back to the Oregon State Hospital.

The same day as the escape, Flores testified before the House Judiciary Committee, telling the Committee her primary concern was related to Secure Residential Treatment Facilities (SRTF). “We’re talking about sex offenders, arsonists, attempted murder, assaulting a police officer and other violent crimes. These clients present the most risk, the highest danger to the community.”

The new findings by DHS notes the operators of Connell House, “did fail in not training staff to provide supervision.” That has been a key concern for Representative Flores. She explained to the Judiciary Committee, “there are really no uniform standards for these facilities. There isn’t a list of building codes or security requirements or staff training. There really aren’t any consistent protocols for the process used when one of these SRTF’s is placed in a community.”

Representative Flores recently learned a new SRTF planned for Pendleton will be locked around-the-clock with security cameras and enclosed with a ten-foot alarmed fence. However, other facilities around the state allow residents to go on walks and even hold down jobs in the community.

Today Cornelius Police Chief Paul Rubenstein pointed out, “we want an above board process with transparency and consistency; one that protects the public and provides an appropriate environment for the residents.” Flores is working on legislative changes to increase public safety standards in addition to better notification for local law enforcement, district attorneys and neighbors. “I believe citizens in a community need to know who’s moving next door,” added Flores during her testimony.