Report detailing security risks at mental hospitals falls on deaf ears

Report detailing security risks at mental hospitals falls on deaf ears »Play Video
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Lost keys and broken fences don't sound too bad, until you learn they happened at our state's mental hospitals and sex offender center.

An inmate escape put the facilities under the microscope, but the man behind the microscope says the state didn't want to hear what he found.

The former high level prison official who did the security study says patients, staff members, and the public are all at risk because his report is being ignored.

"I don't want to say everything I found was bad," said Doug Waddington, the study's author, "but I would be embarrassed. If I were the administrator, I would be embarrassed."

When convicted killer Phillip Paul walked away from an Eastern State Hospital field trip to the Spokane Fair in 2009, the governor ordered immediate steps to tighten all security measures at the state's mental hospitals and sex offender center.

Several studies were made and Waddington, a former prison superintendent, was paid $50,000 to do a 6-month intensive look at all security measures.

"There were things that affected staff safety, patient safety and ultimately public safety... and I had concerns about that," Waddington said.

But when it came time to submit his $50,000 report, he says he was told "no thanks."

"The safety piece was concerning, and then just the waste of public funds was concerning," he said. "It just seemed unethical."

State Senator Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood) says it was covered up.

"Partly because the information it has is very damning," he said. "(It) could be used to help people escape."

Waddington found thousands of keys unaccounted for at Western State Hospital, wooded pallets and ladders near security fences at the Special Commitment Center, and security fences with non-working sensors.

Carrell, who says he's seen the report, said, "examples would be the ease with which one in the past maybe could have escaped from the (Special Commitment Center) because of leaving automobiles that are 'runable' inside the fence that could be used as a battering ram."

He says he has a long list of security issues in his report, but no one at DSHS has seen it.

"They just said there was no study and once they found out I had a copy of the study that I got through other sources, then they admitted they had it," Carrell said.

But Jess Jamieson, DSHS Director of State Hospitals, tells KOMO News they didn't want the report because they thought they already had working notes from Waddington and didn't need anything more.

"It was my understanding that all he had left was to provide sort of a summary of what was contained in the main material," Jamieson said.

I told him: "(Waddington) says the material he has is not what you know."

Jamieson shook his head.

I told him: "But you said, 'don't produce that document for us.' "

Jamieson replied, "So I was under the impression talking with him that what was left to do was a summary of what was already contained in the document."

After the KOMO Problem Solvers brought this to the department's attention, Jamieson said he'd now like to get that final report from Waddington and see if there's anything more that needs to be done to make the hospitals and sex offender unit safer and more secure.