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AGO 1953 No. 145 - October 06, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Legislature intended psychopathic delinquents to be segregated and furnished psychiatric care and treatment but designated existing institutions as places of confinement.

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                                                                 October 6, 1953

Honorable H. D. Van Eaton
Department of Public Institutions
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 145


Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of September 8, 1953, requesting an opinion of this office on (1) whether the housing of psychopathic delinquents at the Washington State Reformatory is authorized by law, and (2) the legality of the procedure used by your department as outlined in your bulletin of January 5, 1950.

            We are of the opinion that the director of the department of public institutions has authority to house or detain psychopathic delinquents within the confines of the Washington State Reformatory, and that the procedure as outlined in your bulletin is authorized, provided said persons are furnished psychiatric care and treatment.


            RCW 71.06.010 defines "psychopathic delinquent" as

            "* * * any minor who is psychopathic, and who is a habitual delinquent, if his delinquency is such as to  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] constitute him a menace to the health, person, or property of himself or others, and the minor is not a proper subject for commitment to a state correctional school, to a state school for the mentally deficient as a mentally deficient person, or to a state hospital as a mentally ill person."

            We conclude from the foregoing that the legislature has designated for psychiatric treatment a class of minors who may not be confined as delinquents in the state correctional schools, who may not be confined as mentally deficient persons in a state school for the mentally deficient, who may not be confined as mentally ill persons in a state hospital, and who may not be confined as criminals in a state penal institution.

            The only provision the legislature has made for the custody of psychopathic delinquent minors is found in RCW 71.06.210 which provides, in part, as follows:

            "* * * If the court finds that the minor is a psychopathic delinquent, the court shall order such person committed to such institution as may be designated by the department of public institutions for the custody, care and treatment of psychopathic delinquents, * * *"

            RCW 71.06.250 reads as follows:

            "The director of the department of public institutions may designate any existing state institutions or portion thereof for the care and treatment of psychopathic delinquents:  Provided, That such institution shall provide psychiatric care and treatment.  Psychopathic delinquents committed under this chapter shall be subject to all laws pertaining to the administration of the institution in which confined."

            By these statutes we may conclude that the legislature has given to the director of the department of public institutions, authority to designate anyexisting institution as a place of confinement, providing such institution furnishes psychiatric care and treatment.

            We considered RCW 72.12.050 providing that, "the director * * * shall receive all males between the ages of 16 and 35 years who are sentenced to the reformatory on conviction of any criminal offense * * *."  There are also limitations placed upon admittance to the other state institutions.  When these  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] statutes are considered in their strict sense, we find that psychopathic delinquents do not fall within a class for confinement in any of the existing state institutions, as far as their personal status is concerned.

            It is apparent from a reading of the entire act that the legislature intended to segregate psychopathic delinquent minors from all individuals confined by law at the present time in existing institutions, and provide special care and treatment to this class of minors within the confines of existing institutions.  However, no funds were appropriated by the legislature to provide additional facilities in already over-crowded existing institutions for the care, treatment, and training of these individuals.

            Therefore, it is our opinion that the Washington State Reformatory at Monroe may be designated as a place of confinement for psychopathic delinquents.  Although segregation and regular psychiatric care and treatment was intended by the legislature, this can only be done to the extent that it is possible within the limits of the funds appropriated.  The procedure set forth in your bulletin of January 5, 1950, falls short of both segregation and regular psychiatric care and treatment.  But since no funds have been made available for additional facilities, that procedure is the nearest approach to the intended result which can be accomplished.  Under the circumstances, we must conclude that the procedure there set forth, although inadequate, is authorized under the law.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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