Case churning, 1863

As the letter below eloquently expresses, the sorting of persons between prisons and insane asylums, later called state hospitals, has gone on since the walls went up.

Note Dr. Loryea, who was the longtime assistant to the much-lauded Dr. James Hawthorne, suggests in his letter to the editors of The Oregonian that next time Mr. Hunter should not be returned to his care and instead should be jailed.


Oregon State Insane Asylum, August 28th, 1863 – READ the original letter (PDF)

Dear Gentlemen,

In your local of this morning, you state that Andrew Hunter, alias Scotty, escaped from the Insane Asylum. You have been misinformed. He was discharged in consequences of his insanity being so slight and his moral tendencies so powerful, that out experience with him taught us the propriety of such cases being dealt with in the State Penitentiary rather than the State Insane Asylum.

He presents an example of that rare form of insanity, denominated by “moral mania,” which is now attracting the attention of psychologists, and it is still a matter of dispute amongst “experts” whether such cases should be protected by the Asylum or punished for their crimes and misdemeanors. Being in favor of pursuing the latter course, from my experiences in “Scotty’s case,” I discharged him, somewhat improved, with the confidence that if he should commit some “overt act,” he would in the future receive proper punishment in consequence.

Will you please rectify your error, and oblige yours, truly.

A. M. Loryea, Resident Physician