If Jeremy Christian had received mental health care, could 2017 Portland MAX stabbings have been avoided?
Jeremy Christian will stand trial for stabbing three men — two fatally — on a MAX train in 2017. The incident has been characterized as a white supremacist attack. Eye witness accounts and many of Christian's own actions in the weeks leading up to the murders do little to challenge that characterization.
But records from Christian's previous arrests and interviews with people who have known him since childhood indicate his mental health was clearly declining for years leading up to the attacks. Christian's past also raises questions about the role the prison system played in exacerbating his mental health problems, and whether treatment could have helped prevent the deaths of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best.
Michael Hames-Garcia, a University of Oregon professor who researches the criminal justice system, said it's hard to argue that Christian shouldn't go to prison. But, he said, with a different criminal justice system, one that diverted people with mental illness away from incarceration, this tragedy may have been avoided.
"We're always looking at the immediate crisis and responding to that," Hames-Garcia said.
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