EXCLUSIVE: Inside the Oklahoma hospital for the insane

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VINITA, Okla. — The vast majority of Oklahomans with mental illness will never commit a crime. However, those who do often end up being the most bizarre, horrific type of criminal.

The Oklahoma Forensic Center houses 200 patients who are either seeking treatment for competency, or found “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI).

For nearly a century, Oklahoma’s insane spent their days and nights behind barbed wire at Eastern Oklahoma Hospital for the Insane.

The property is now deserted and condemned; the last patients moved out in 2008.

The Oklahoma Forensic Center (OFC) shares the property with the old Eastern State Hospital and is a modern day sanitorium with 200 beds.

Most of the patients who live at OFC, about 120 people, are getting treatment so they can be competent to stand trial.

They are accused of an assortment of crimes, misdemeanors to murder.

“It’s not a prison. It’s a hospital,” said Oklahoma Department of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse spokesperson, Jeff Dismukes. “We look at it as a hospital. It’s a very secure facility. It’s more secure than other psychiatric hospitals, and it has to be because of the population we serve. But it’s a hospital and that’s how we look at it. The people who work here are mental health professionals.”

The Oklahoma Forensic Center is our state’s most secure mental hospital. Patient rooms are unlocked, but each wing is sealed shut and there is an anti-climb fence around the yard.

According to Dismukes, 90 percent of patients with pending charges will obtain competency and go on to trial. The average stay for those patients is seven months.

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse runs this facility.

They treat and protect the patients. The department gave very minimal information about the residents.

There are 80 patients who have a rare legal distinction, not guilty by reason of insanity. Those residents are also working toward mental stability, but they may never leave.

The only way out is with a judge’s order.

“We are providing treatment for the illness. We aren’t making judgment. We aren’t judge and jury for anything. We are about treating the illness and getting that person well,” Dismukes said.

The patients in by way of criminal charges, but much of their hospitalization is secret and protected by the state.

NewsChannel 4 asked for a list of patients, a list of criminal charges and a list of counties with jurisdiction over the residents.

“The department is prohibited of releasing a list.” said Dismukes.

According to the Oklahoma Forensic Center, for fiscal year 2014, patients came from 57 different Oklahoma counties:

Total Client Count: 355
Client Count (by age):
18-25yo: 47 patients
26-35yo: 102 patients
36-64yo: 191 patients
65yo+: 15 patients

Client Count (by County of residence)
Oklahoma: 70 patients
Tulsa: 63 patients
McCurtain: 16 patients
Carter: 14 patients
LeFlore: 13 patients
Cleveland: 12 patients
Grady: 10 patients

*Client counts by county which are less than 10 were removed by the department to protect confidentiality.

According to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse there have been 15 court-ordered discharges of client who are not guilty be reason of insanity since 2010:

2015 – 1 patient (deceased)

2014 – 3 patients

2013 – 1 patients (deceased)

2012 – 3 patients (2 patients transferred to a structured care facility)

2011 – 7 patients (4 patients transferred structured care, 1 out-of-state, 1 deceased)

2010 – 0 patients

Additional Information provided by Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse:

Statewide Analysis Competency Evaluations document

Treat to Competent Charges

Report a typo

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