30 seconds with… Jan Haaken

Filmmaker, Portland State University professor, and clinical psychologist

By Lauren Fox July 15, 2010 Published in the August 2010 issue of Portland Monthly

Where did you get the idea for your newly released documentary, "Guilty Except for Insanity"?

Oregon’s State Hospital has had a long history of troubles. A number of exposés have been written. But we wanted to follow the problem through the eyes of the people who were in the system.

How has past media coverage of the Oregon State Hospital affected the public’s view of the criminally insane?

It has exaggerated people’s fears about patients. People often assume that most of the patients are very dangerous, scary people, when in reality, only 2 percent of them are a threat to the community.

What does “guilty except for insanity” mean?

The title is meant to be ironic. In the 1980s, there was a movement to roll back the use of the “insanity defense,” so the law was changed to “guilty except for insanity.” Guilt is assigned to these people. They are forced to accept some of the burden of guilt. But they never understood what they were doing when they carried out the action.

What do you suggest the state do to help mental health patients before they commit a crime?

I would hope that we could invest in more community resources like work training programs, housing projects, community therapy centers, and nutrition programs that have a lot of input from people who have gone through the system. With the economic crisis in this country, the prisons are the most secure ship because there is so much money behind them. It is going to be a big fight to keep smaller community resources going.

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