the released

Keith Williams

More than any of the men FRONTLINE's producers met in the course of making this film, Keith Williams represented the failure of deinstitutionalization. Years ago, he might have spent his life in a state hospital. Today, he's at the mercy of America's community based mental heath care system -- and its current state is a disaster for the seriously mentally ill.

FRONTLINE first met Keith Williams in 2004, as he was being released from Ohio's maximum-security prison. He'd completed a two-year sentence for burglary. When asked what his plans were, Williams -- who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and has been homeless most of his adult life -- said he was going to spend time with his "mommies, angels and cats."

In summer 2008, FRONTLINE found Williams hospitalized at Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare, a psychiatric facility that treats offenders sent by the courts.

Since that 2004 release, he had added several arrests to his very long record. Since 2002, he has 32 arrests on file in Toledo, Ohio with charges that range from driving without a license to robbery.

Williams, 30, is known to not take his medications and has a history of alcohol and marijuana abuse. He is prone to aggressive behavior and touching women inappropriately. Williams has also physically attacked women.

Williams came to Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare from jail August 5, 2008 in a psychotic state. His admissions history at Northcoast stretches back to his late teens; he began having auditory hallucinations at the age of 16 and was first prescribed medication around age 19.

Williams was stabilized with three medications administered three times a day and discharged Nov. 12, 2008. In the discharge paperwork, it was noted that the course of medications had put Williams in the best shape the staff had seen him in a decade. It was a regimen that Williams wouldn't be able to maintain outside of a hospital setting.

Four days later, Williams assaulted a police officer at the Toledo homeless shelter to which he had been released. Williams was openly masturbating at the shelter, and when officers responded he attacked a female officer, punching her in the face and gripping her breasts and pelvic region. The officer suffered a broken nose, several chipped teeth and other injuries. Williams was tasered twice during the arrest and subsequent hospitalization.

He has been charged with felonious assault on a police officer and gross sexual imposition. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

UPDATE: Soon after the film aired, Keith Williams was found incompetent to stand trial and was transferred back to the state psychiatric hospital, where he is likely to remain for the next 10 years.

posted april 28, 2009; updated december 7, 2010

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