Saturday, December 6, 2008
Shannon Harps, a young Sierra Club worker, devoted her life to improving her community before she was killed last New Year's Eve. But her death may spur major mental health system reforms that could result in improved public safety, better care for the severely ill and tighter control over dangerous offenders.
A task force convened by the King County Prosecutor's Office and state Department of Corrections has completed a nearly yearlong investigation into the mental health and criminal justice systems that let James Williams roam the streets homeless and hallucinating in the hours before he allegedly chose Harps at random and stabbed her with a kitchen knife.
Williams, a severely mentally ill man with a long history of violence, is now facing a murder charge.
The 160-page report found glaring examples of poor communication, a critical shortage of hospital beds and commitment laws that don't adequately address the complex needs of people who become enmeshed in both the legal and mental health systems after committing violent crimes.
On Friday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg will present 64 wide-ranging "concepts for reform" to the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. [Mark Godsey]