A high-risk, mentally ill sex offender was moved to a new housing unit at the state’s Regional Treatment Center in Anoka on Tuesday after the Star Tribune informed state officials he had been living in a coed unit with vulnerable women.
Ambrose Slaughter, 43, a paranoid schizophrenic who served prison time for kidnapping and attempted criminal sexual conduct, has been housed at the Anoka facility for the past two years, living intermittently alongside females with mental illness and developmental disabilities, according to documents reviewed by the Star Tribune and a source with direct knowledge of the facility.
Earlier in the day, state officials said they’re aware of the risks in housing and treating patients with psychiatric disorders and take pains to protect them.
“All our patients at Anoka Regional Treatment Center are vulnerable adults,” Deputy Human Services Commissioner Anne Barry said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Every patient comes to us with unique risks, and we assess and manage those risk to protect all our patients.”
But after reviewing the case in greater detail late Tuesday, Barry ordered that Slaughter be moved.
Documents obtained by the Star Tribune show that Slaughter engaged in inappropriate behavior with a female patient earlier this year and that staffers said he required constant supervision and “redirection.”
Slaughter’s placement in a coed ward with other vulnerable adults also may have violated a court order stemming from an earlier, class action suit against the state, according to a Twin Cities attorney who represented developmentally disabled patients under state care.
A judge in that case issued “specific orders mandating appropriate transition and protection for class members and others with developmental disabilities,” attorney Shamus O’Meara said.
One of the women represented in that suit, brought against the state Department of Human Services on behalf of patients who resided at a facility in Cambridge, now lives in the same unit where Slaughter had been placed.
Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center is the state’s second-largest psychiatric facility, a 200-bed site that treats mentally ill patients with complex medical histories. Many have been through the criminal justice system or were civilly committed by a judge because of severe psychiatric problems. Patients who have been committed to the state’s security hospital in St. Peter are often moved to Anoka in preparation for transition back into the community.
Currently, two other high-risk sex offenders at the Anoka facility, but they are not living in a coed ward.
Slaughter was arrested by Minneapolis police in 2005 after he attacked a woman who was jogging, court records show. After serving time in prison, he was committed to state care as mentally ill in 2008 and spent time at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
Eventually, he was transferred to Anoka, where it was decided in 2011 that his behavior had improved enough that he no longer required care in a hospital setting, according to court records.
When he first transferred to the Anoka facility, Slaughter was placed in the coed unit. But he was soon moved after staff members caught him in inappropriate behavior with a female patient, records show. In another incident, last year, he grabbed and slapped the buttocks of a female staff member, records show. About a month ago, Slaughter was moved back to the coed ward, pending a discharge to a group home for sex offenders in Brooklyn Center, the source said.
Slaughter’s case has also prompted concerns among state mental health employees that his proposed discharge is being rushed because of a larger effort by state officials to accelerate releases from Anoka to make beds available for patients needing acute care.
About 40 percent of the mental-health patients at Anoka are considered well enough to be released, but they have been kept there due to a lack of outside beds.
Debate over assessment
For now, Slaughter’s discharge is being held up due to concerns that a psychosexual risk assessment has not been done on him since 2010, according to documents. That year, he was assessed as a Level 3 offender, the highest risk category that offenders can be placed in by the state Department of Corrections.
The state’s highest-ranking medical officer, Dr. Steven Pratt, has told his staff and Anoka officials that a new assessment is unnecessary, documents show.
Pratt wrote in an e-mail last week that offenders discharged from the facility only need a risk-management plan for living in a group-home setting — not a psychosexual risk assessment, according to documents obtained by the Star Tribune. Pratt is also the medical director at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, the only facility with staff qualified to conduct such a risk assessment.
“I want to reiterate that for our system, I am advocating that what we should be looking at is risk-management planning, not risk assessment,” Pratt wrote Thursday to top state officials responsible for the discharge of mentally ill and dangerous patients.