Wednesday, August 20 2014 5:43 AM EDT2014-08-20 09:43:48 GMT
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By: Monica Parise
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three and a half years after Benjamin Davis stabbed two strangers with a knife on the Koko Crater Trail, he is beginning a new chapter on his own.
Twice a week, Davis walks unsupervised from the Hawaii State Hospital to Windward Community College next door to take classes on the campus. Despite the judge's ruling that he's no longer a threat to society, some students are worried about their safety.
"How can you be sure that he's not a danger to anyone?" asked Tyler Kerch. "He's got history of mental illness and obviously he's unstable. I definitely don't feel safe having him on campus."
Kerch is among the students at the school doubting the judge's decision. A panel of three medical experts conducted independent mental fitness tests on Davis before recommending that the judge let him off hospital grounds unsupervised. The judge is also bound by law to consider patient rights.
Forensic psychologist Marv Acklin says the mental health system helps patients transition back into society and focuses on public safety first.
"Many, many people with mental illness get better, then become more functional and can start doing classes, start doing work with the whole idea of eventual rehabilitation," said Acklin.
Acklin says mental health patients such as Davis typically have better success rates than the rapists and murderers released from prison every day, without as much of a safety net.
"It's a constant public concern whether our mental health system is responsible, said Acklin. "Whether it's quality, and people have a right to be concerned about safety issues. Everybody takes this matter extremely seriously with public safety of utmost importance."
Both college and state hospital officials say they have plans in place to keep everyone involved safe. They say if Davis breaks the rules or violates the judge's orders, his privileges will be revoked.
One state hospital employee told us after working with Davis for the past three years, he would trust him with his family.