Hawaii State Hospital defends controversial decision
KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Officials at the Hawaii State Hospital are trying to balance public safety and patient privacy with a high-profile patient being allowed to take college classes unsupervised.
Windward Community College welcomed new students at "Frosh Camp" on Wednesday. News of an unsupervised patient being allowed to take classes is raising some eyebrows on campus.
"My first reaction was surprised because he's not supervised so that makes me a little worried, but it's kind of iffy," said student Shanlie Kaululaau. "I think people should get another chance, especially if you're just trying to expand your education."
Benjamin Davis has been taking classes at WCC under supervision for a few months, according to the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney. A judge is now allowing him to attend the college twice a week unsupervised.
Davis stabbed two hikers at Koko Crater three years ago, but was found not guilty because he was legally insane. Davis, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, has been responding well to medication, according to his attorney. The Hawaii State Health Department runs the hospital. Health officials stress that before patients are allowed off the property, they go through an extensive review process. There are also several conditions including specific sign-out and sign-in times as well as random searches and drug tests. Davis' treatment team can also end the unsupervised release at any time.
"It is our mission and purpose to actually do our absolute best to minimize or eliminate risk to the community. Given the circumstances in which we're working, I don't see there's a way to get that risk completely to zero although we strive to do so," said Dr. William Sheehan, chief of the Department of Health's Adult Mental Health Division.
Critics wondered if taxpayers are paying for Davis' education, but Sheehan couldn't comment on this specific case due to privacy laws.
"We do use our budget at the Hawaii State Hospital to support those activities for those people who we believe are appropriate for that level of responsibility," Sheehan said.
Sheehan said the vast majority of patients who eventually leave the hospital successfully rejoin the community.
"I'll try to stay focused, but I'll definitely just keep an eye out for my surroundings," said Kaululaau.
Windward Community College Chancellor Doug Dykstra released the following statement:
"Selected administrators, faculty, and staff from Windward Community College met today to develop a plan to safely implement the court ordered matriculation of a student from the State Hospital into credit-bearing courses at the college. The plan takes into account college responsibilities to assure the safety of all of its students. College officials will be discussing all of the options in this case with University of Hawaii System officials before making any statements providing greater specificity."
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