Speed Reads

Crime and punishment

D.C. man has served 40 years in a mental hospital for stealing a $20 necklace

Franklin Frye is a 68-year-old Washington, D.C. man who has spent the entirety of his adult life confined unwillingly to a mental hospital. He was committed because he was accused of stealing a necklace worth $20 in 1970 and was deemed unfit to stand trial. Though the necklace in question was never found, and Frye has repeatedly appealed for release, he has struggled for years to hold the attention of the District's legal system.

While long-term institutionalization of the mentally ill in psychiatric facilities — or "lunatic asylums," as they used to be called — is generally considered the property of history books and horror flicks, it remains a very real legal limbo for people like Frye.

Today he is finally moving toward release, though his family says his mental health has worsened over years of confinement in a facility often investigated for neglect and abuse. They're not sure how they'll care for him once he's released full time.