In 1981, a gunman named John Hinckley, Jr. opened fire on President Ronald Reagan. One bullet struck the president in the chest, one struck his press secretary James Brady, and two more hit D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy. All four men survived (although Brady was partially paralyzed, and ultimately died because of his injuries in 2014), and Hinckley was ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity. But now, 35 years later, he's finally out ― so, what are the conditions of Hinckley's release?
Hinckley, now 61 years old, has spent the bulk of his adult life living at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. under close supervision for his long-term mental health care. News of his release has sparked an impassioned and even outraged response from some, owing both to the violent imprint he left on American history, and residual frustration that he wasn't punished more harshly for his assassination attempt. In fact, laws surrounding insanity defenses were ultimately reformed and toughened as a response to the Hinckley verdict.
Regardless of your feelings about the assassination attempt and the 35 years of mental health treatment Hinckley's received rather than prison, though, the fact remains that he's now been freed, although there are many rules and requirements he'll have to fulfill going forward.
As Shawn Boburg and Moriah Balingit detailed for the Washington Post, Hinckley will be living with his 90-year-old mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, and he's not a stranger to the area, having stayed there before on scheduled and approved visits over the last nine years. Now he'll be living there full time, although he won't be allowed to stray too far from the vicinity ― he must stay within a 30-mile radius of his mom's home, is barred from consuming any alcohol or illegal drugs, and must submit to routine psychiatric check-ins.
This will reportedly include a monthly outpatient meeting in Washington, D.C., which he'll be allowed to drive to. Following Hinckley's release, his lawyer Barry William Levine defended the decision in a statement.
The very carefully considered decision by the court to release Mr. Hinckley based on the copious evidence by medical professionals and government expert witnesses should give great comfort to a concerned citizenry that the mental health system and the judicial system worked and worked well. ... People of good will should feel good about Mr. Hinckley's recovery and wish him well.
Hinckley will also reportedly be required to carry a GPS-enabled phone, so to allow authorities to monitor his whereabouts, and he won't be allowed to contact members of the media, as NPR's Merrit Kennedy details. He's also strictly forbidden from contacting any of his victims or their relatives, as well as Hollywood actor/director Jodie Foster ― Hinckley was dangerously obsessed with Foster at the time of the assassination attempt, supposedly inspired by her role in the Martin Scorcese film Taxi Driver, and claimed he'd done it as a "love offering" to her.
Hinckley also reportedly won't be allowed to travel to any place where members of the executive branch are or will soon be, as well areas containing any former presidents, members or Congress, or anyone under the protection of the U.S Secret Service. In short, he's going to be living under a slew of restrictions designed to ensure that he doesn't pose a threat to anyone ever again, letting him live within a limited proximity, keeping track of his location, and keeping him bound to a regular schedule of check-ins.