Letter: House Bill 312 doesn’t criminalize mental illness

I introduced House Bill 312 to address the increase in workplace violence in Alaska's hospitals. HB 312 does two things to address violence against our doctors and nurses: 1. it allows police to arrest someone for misdemeanor assault without a warrant in the same way they can already arrest someone for felony assault without a warrant; and 2. it gives courts the ability to increase the sentence, when appropriate, for a person convicted of felony assault against a medical professional.

HB 312 does not create a new class of offenses and does not criminalize mental illness. In fact, the legislation establishes that a police officer cannot arrest a hospital patient unless that person is medically and psychologically "stable for discharge." Emergency room doctors explained that they would not release a person who was psychologically unstable and assaulting others just so that unstable person could assault others at the jail. The doctors would treat the person's unstable condition in the hospital — not in jail.

HB 312 is a positive step to improve public safety in Alaska's medical care facilities while protecting the rights of the mentally ill.

It makes sure we consider prior out-of-state criminal convictions of those charged with new crimes in Alaska and continues our commitment to wise use of our public safety funds.

Rep. Matt Claman