Guilty Except for Insanity follows the journeys of five people who enlist the insanity defense after being charged with serious crimes. The documentary portrays the circumstances surrounding their crimes and the dilemmas they confront as they enter the Oregon State Hospital under the "Guilty Except for Insanity" plea.
Site of the filming of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, based on the novel by Ken Kesey, the Oregon State Hospital has been the focus of intense controversy, including charges by the U.S. Department of Justice of massive civil rights abuses of patients. This documentary tells a different side of the story - one that captures broader national trends in community mental health services. Through footage shot at the hospital and interviews with patients and staff, the film shows how these patients had fallen deep into troubled waters before being caught in the raggedy "safety net" of jails, courts, and, finally, the state hospital. And in following the compelling stories of these patients, the documentary also tells a disturbing tale of political neglect and public paranoia concerning the mentally ill.
Interviews with over a hundred individuals in the course of production - interviews with staff, patients, and family members - produced a tragically recurring story: most patients who enter the State hospital could have been helped earlier in the crisis and with far fewer economic and social resources. Long-term incarceration of patients has been costly in both human and financial terms.