Freedom Nitschke (center) and her son Julian Martinez, 11 (left), look at photos Friday during a news conference in Olympia as Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place (right) looks on. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Freedom Nitschke (center) and her son Julian Martinez, 11 (left), look at photos Friday during a news conference in Olympia as Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place (right) looks on. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Lawmaker: Offenders are too often ‘dumped’ in Lakewood, Tacoma

One proposal would send people released from Western State psychiatric hospital to their home towns.

  • By TOM JAMES Associated Press
  • Saturday, February 16, 2019 8:08am
  • Northwest

By Tom James / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A lawmaker from the district holding the troubled Western State psychiatric hospital said Friday that measures before the Legislature would restrict what he described as the disproportionate placement of violent offenders in the area after release.

One of the bills would require violent offenders to be released in their home counties, while the other would restrict placement of some in less-restrictive adult family homes.

Sen. Steve O’Ban, a Republican from the district including much of Lakewood and Tacoma, said offenders ended up “dumped” in his district, sometimes in facilities near residential neighborhoods, and described the case of a man convicted of sexually assaulting children, who he said now lives in an adult family home near an area school.

“These individuals should have been in my view returned to their counties, where they were charged with their crimes,” O’Ban said. “Pierce County should not be the place where these individuals are automatically released.”

Family homes typically contain a handful of adults who live together in a home that is run like a household, under the supervision of trained staff. They are used to house adults who can’t live at home, but don’t need a more restrictive setting.

At the same time they are also used to transition patients from more restrictive institutions back into the community.

Freedom Nitschke also spoke at the Friday event, and said her father was killed by a violent offender who had been placed in the adult family home where he was housed.

Nitschke said the man bludgeoned her wheelchair-bound father, whom she described as “defenseless,” with a coffee mug.

But legal advocates told a Senate committee later in the day that banning some offenders from adult family homes would be unconstitutional.

Sonja Hardenbrook, who spoke on behalf of several organizations of public defenders and defense attorneys, said that would run contrary to due process obligations requiring the state to hold some offenders in the least restrictive facility available.

A representative for the state’s designated disability rights watchdog also voiced concerns over the proposal.

And Katie Ross said on behalf of the King County Department of Public Defense that spreading offenders around the state would make them harder to monitor.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services no longer oversees Western State, which is located in Lakewood. It cut the hospital’s certification and federal funding in June after finding safety issues that contributed to assault and escapes, including by patients hospitalized after being charged with such crimes as murder, rape, kidnapping, and assault.

In addition to the network of psychiatric facilities for non-violent people that has been a proposal of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, O’Ban said the state should build government-run facilities to house violent offenders nearer to their counties of origin, even if counties resist.

O’Ban said the proposed facilities for holding violent patients hadn’t been submitted as a bill, but that he would request they be included in the capital budget, at a cost he estimated to be about $12 million each.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Northwest

Alaska Airlines aircraft sit in the airline's hangar at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in SeaTac, Wash. Boeing has acknowledged in a letter to Congress that it cannot find records for work done on a door panel that blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight over Oregon two months ago. Ziad Ojakli, Boeing executive vice president and chief government lobbyist, wrote to Sen. Maria Cantwell on Friday, March 8 saying, “We have looked extensively and have not found any such documentation.” (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
FBI tells passengers on 737 flight they might be crime victims

Passengers received letters this week from a victim specialist from the federal agency’s Seattle office.

Skylar Meade (left) and Nicholas Umphenour.
Idaho prison gang member and accomplice caught after ambush

Pair may have killed 2 while on the run, police say. Three police officers were hospitalized with gunshot wounds after the attack at a Boise hospital.

Barbara Peraza-Garcia holds her 2-year-old daughter, Frailys, while her partner Franklin Peraza sits on their bed in their 'micro apartment' in Seattle on Monday, March 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)
Micro-apartments are back after nearly a century, as need for affordable housing soars

Boarding houses that rented single rooms to low-income, blue-collar or temporary workers were prevalent across the U.S. in the early 1900s.

Teen blamed for crash that kills woman, 3 children in Renton

Four people were hospitalized, including three with life-threatening injuries. The teenage driver said to be at fault is under guard at a hospital.

Snow is visible along the top of Mount Pilchuck from bank of the Snohomish River on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington issues statewide drought declaration, including Snohomish County

Drought is declared when there is less than 75% of normal water supply and “there is the risk of undue hardship.”

Dave Calhoun, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg)
Boeing fired lobbying firm that helped it navigate 737 Max crashes

Amid congressional hearings on Boeing’s “broken safety culture,” the company has severed ties with one of D.C.’s most powerful firms.

Rosario Resort and Spa on Orcas Island (Photo provided by Empower Investing)
Orcas Island’s storied Rosario Resort finds a local owner

Founded by an Orcas Island resident, Empower Investing plans” dramatic renovations” to restore the historic resort.

People fill up various water jug and containers at the artesian well on 164th Street on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Lynnwood, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Washington will move to tougher limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in water

The federal EPA finalized the rules Wednesday. The state established a program targeting the hazardous chemicals in drinking water in 2021.

State: Contractor got workers off Craigslist to remove asbestos in Everett

Great North West Painting is appealing the violations and $134,500 fine levied by the state Department of Labor Industries.

Riley Wong, 7, shows his pen pal, Smudge, the picture he drew for her in addition to his letter at Pasado's Safe Haven on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 in Monroe, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County organization rescues neglected llamas in Yakima County

Pasado’s Safe Haven planned to provide ongoing medical care and rehabilitation to four llamas in its care at its sanctuary.

Whidbey cop accused of rape quits job after internal inquiry

The report was unsparing in its allegations against John Nieder, who is set to go to trial May 6 in Skagit County Superior Court on two counts of rape in the second degree.

LA man was child rape suspect who faked his death

Coroner’s probe reveals the Los Angeles maintenance man was a Bremerton rape suspect believed to have jumped off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.