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Errantly Paroled Mentally Ill San Quentin Prisoner Commits Mayhem In San Francisco

Errantly Paroled Mentally Ill San Quentin Prisoner Commits Mayhem In San Francisco

When San Quentin, California state prison employees released mentally ill prisoner Scott Thomas onto parole on the night of Friday, May 18, 2007, they committed numerous serious security blunders that culminated in Thomas’ brutal knife assault the next day on a 15-year-old girl and a man who came to her aid. In a 19-page heavily redacted report, Brett Morgan, California’s Chief Deputy Inspector General (IG), identified huge gaffes committed by multiple San Quentin personnel that led to the tragic results.

Scott Thomas has been incarcerated nine times since his first conviction at age 20 for grant theft auto and hit and run. Although he had a documented history of bipolar disorder and was most recently serving a disciplinary term in solitary confinement for assaulting prison guards, he received no mental health treatment. Nonetheless, he was due to parole on May 26, 2007. State law requires that when a prisoner paroles from solitary, he be placed on “high control.” Among other things, “high control” means that release at night or on a Friday is barred and that the parole agent must pick the prisoner up at the gate and deliver him to his parole residence. Finally, the parole agent must arrange for any needed mental health treatment upon the prisoner’s release.

The redacted confidential portion of the report castigated San Quentin’s failure to respond to guards’ and mental health workers’ repeated calls for treatment of Scott’s obvious mental disorder in his four months in solitary. But things went further downhill when Scott’s counselor confused Scott’s file with that of another prisoner, Steven Thomas, notwithstanding that Scott was a different race, 16 years younger, 40 pounds lighter and had a different prison ID number. In fact, Scott was initially released six days prematurely to a parole hold for Steven and delivered to nearby Alameda County, where he was rejected as being the wrong person. Embarrassed San Quentin staff brought him back, hastily gave him $200 gate money and turned him loose that same Friday night. Worse yet, release was not to a parole agent from Los Angeles, but to unsupervised freedom in San Francisco. It was there that Scott was arrested the next day for the assaults, when police found him mumbling, “I just got out of Quentin,” “I’m taking on the world,” and singing incoherently. He has since been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and is being treated at Atascadero State Hospital.

The IG identified numerous failures on the parts of mental health staff, counselors, case records staff and parole agent and recommended retraining and disciplinary action for all involved. The guilty parties still face lawsuits from young Lauren Schaller, who suffered permanent mobility injuries as well as great emotional trauma, and from the good Samaritan who bravely came to her aid. See: Special Review Into CDCR’s Release of Inmate Scott Thomas, Officer of the Inspector General, October 2007. The report is available on PLN’s website.

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