Sponsor says bill allowing inmates to be held longer if they refuse mental health treatment is inspired by Elizabeth Smart case


Wanda Barzee

While coming late in the session, a bill has been introduced in the Legislature that would directly affect the hot public issue of Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper Wanda Barzee’s rather short prison sentence.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, has HB481, which says the Board of Pardons will “toll” the sentences of people sentenced to mental health treatment in prison/hospital the amount of time the inmate refuses mental treatment.

In other words, if an inmate sentenced to mental treatment refuses for two years to be treated, then his or her sentence can be extended for two years.

“This is for Barzee,” Ivory, an attorney, told UtahPolicy.com on Thursday morning.

When Smart’s kidnapper got out of prison last September it made national news, in a case that has captured the interest of not only Utah and the nation, but the world.

Barzee refused some mental health treatment at the Utah State Hospital during her stay there.

Smart, then 13, was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City northside bedroom in 2002 and held for nine months by Barzee and her “husband,” Brian David Mitchell – who remains behind bars in Utah.

State corrections officials said they couldn’t hold Barzee any longer, as she had served the sentence for her crime.

Smart, her family and supporters, said Barzee still posed a threat to the now married mother and human rights/missing children advocate.

“I do believe she’s a threat,” Smart said of Barzee during a press conference last fall. “For me, I know the depth of her depravity.”

Smart’s story was turned into books and TV programs, and her unexpected rescue, just miles from where she taken, was heralded as nothing short of a miracle – many law enforcement officials believed she had been killed.

“If you plead guilty, are sentenced, to a crime that includes mental health treatment, then you should (stay in prison) until you finish that treatment – it’s part of your sentence,” said Ivory.

He said maybe his bill can’t get through the House and Senate with just a week left in the session, but that it should be studied during the interim, and he will run it again next year if it doesn’t make it this time.