ARIZONA, USA — A new notice posted on the Psychiatric Security Review Board’s website makes it clear - no more meetings through the end of the year.
The Board, known as the PSRB, is supposed to meet each month to monitor the guilty except insane population. State data from 2021 shows the Board is overseeing 114 people, 100 at the state hospital and 14 living in the community.
The population is made up of people who have committed violent crimes, like murder or aggravated assault, and are sentenced to the state psychiatric hospital for treatment.
The last time the PSRB met was in January 2022. For each month since, there have been meeting cancellations posted due to a lack of quorum. That means the people under its watch and the victims of those violent crimes are stuck in limbo.
"I've got to say I’m disappointed, but I’m not at all surprised," said Will Humble. "They have a statutory responsibility to make sure that when people are in community placement, there’s somebody looking into how things are going. Is it still a safe placement for the community and the patient? No one has been looking at that for the past eight months."
Humble used to be the Director of Arizona's Department of Health Services. The Department oversees the state hospital, which is where the Board is supposed to meet each month.
Under state law, the PSRB can decide if a person deemed guilty except insane can take trips off hospital grounds or potentially go back and live in the community.
That’s what happened with Christopher Lambeth, who plead guilty except insane and was sentenced to 25 to life in 2007 for killing his grandparents.
Records show Lambeth was released to the community in 2016 and was arrested for killing a housemate at a Gilbert group home in 2021while he was still under the Board’s watch. Lambeth's case is the subject of the 12News I-Team's investigative series and podcast Locked Inside.
Before this, a state audit found the Board was making decisions with insufficient data. The Board declined to comment on the Christopher Lambeth case.
In the wake of the group home killing, Governor Doug Ducey signed a law getting rid of the state Board in 2023. In the interim, the Board was supposed to operate under stricter rules. Instead, two Board members resigned, and one was removed. With only two people left, the Board hasn’t been able to reach a quorum for meetings.
It’s up to the governor’s office to fill the vacancies, but that hasn’t happened in the past eight months.
We’ve reached out to the governor’s office four times in the past month about the vacancies but haven’t heard back.
In June, a spokesperson for the governor's office stated over email that they were accepting applications online and "proactively searching for applicants, reaching out to people who know others that would qualify."
This latest notice, posted sometime in September, is likely a signal those spots won’t be filled before the Board is dissolved in 2023. That would mean the guilty except insane population wouldn’t have had Board oversight for nearly a year.
"If you don’t have the Psychiatric Security Review Board in place to look at the cases and do that review, then it’s a free for all," Humble stated.
Starting in January 2023, all of the guilty except insane cases, or GEI cases, will be handled by the state's court systems. Some applauded the move, while others have been critical, wondering if some of the backed-up court systems can handle adding in these sensitive cases.
You can read the notice here:
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