Couple Found Slain: After a Family Murder

Holt. Jul. 2021. 256p. ISBN 9781250757449. $27.99. CRIME
Psychoanalyst Brottman (An Unexplained Death) offers a fascinating, well-written glimpse into forensic psychiatric facilities in the U.S. Brian Bechtold, the youngest of five in an abusive household, confessed to killing his parents at age 22 in 1992. Because of mental illness, he was deemed “not criminally responsible” for the crime and was committed to Maryland’s maximum-security psychiatric facility, the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center. Brottman met Bechtold while leading a group session, and after getting to know him and learning more about Perkins, she now questions why he is still there. Though Perkins’s stated goal is to return patients to society, Bechtold has been institutionalized for almost 30 years, with no release date in sight. Bechtold maintains that he has been mentally healthy for several years and that forced medication and harsh conditions at Perkins have caused him to react in anger and violence, which are interpreted as signs of mental illness. Relying on interviews with Bechtold and Perkins staff, and research on similar cases, Brottman deftly points to problems at facilities like Perkins, from psychiatrists who spend too little time with patients, to high staff turnover.
VERDICT This thought-provoking book adds to conversations about the role of psychiatric institutions and how society can offer solutions.
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