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View Diary: Join Webb's list today! Overhaul U.S. unjust detention. (153 comments)

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  •  It started back in the 60's (16+ / 0-)

    when mental health facilities started dumping mentally ill people out onto the streets as I understand it.

    A lot of mentally ill people are now "housed" in the prison system instead of being cared for within the health system.

    I don't think putting a lot of mentally ill people into state mental hospitals is the right answer but surely there has to be a more humane and rational way of caring for this very vulnerable segment of our society.

    At least one in six prisoners in the United States is mentally ill – well over 300,000 men and women. There are three times as many mentally ill in U.S. prisons as in the country's mental health hospitals, suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, among other illnesses.


    The longer answer is that the mentally ill are victims of two failed public policies.

    The first is the failure of public officials to ensure an effective mental health system. Beginning in the 1960s, a process of "deinstitutionalization" freed mentally ill men and women from the bleak mental hospitals in which they had previously been dumped. But the system of community-based mental health services envisioned by the architects of deinstitutionalization never materialized. Today, community mental health services are a shambles.

    People living with mental illness – especially if they are poor and homeless and have substance abuse problems – find it nearly impossible to obtain help. Untreated, they can find themselves on the margins of society, deteriorate psychiatrically and may ultimately break the law.

    As criminal offenders, they then confront the second failed public policy: punitive laws, such as mandatory minimum sentences, that send people to prison even for low-level nonviolent crimes. As these laws have sent the U.S. prison population soaring to levels unimaginable in the rest of the world, so they have propelled the incarceration of many mentally ill.

    Prisons No Place For the Mentally Ill

    I know this isn't quite the trend you were talking about and I apologize if I'm somewhat off the topic you were mentioning.

    I just wanted to sneak this into the comments because what has happened to the seriously mentally ill individuals in this country is a travesty.

    From the above article:

    Prisoners who break the rules because of their illnesses are punished. Even self-mutilation and attempted suicide are dealt with as disciplinary matters. Mentally ill prisoners who break too many rules, who "act out" or who are otherwise unpleasant or disruptive, are locked up interminably in segregated units or supermax prisons that provide high-security solitary confinement.

    Indeed, these special segregation or isolation units are disproportionately populated by mentally ill prisoners. There they live 24 hours a day in small, sometimes windowless cells, allowed out for solitary exercise in a barren space a few times a week. They have little or nothing to do all day. Mental health treatment and programs are even worse for isolated prisoners than elsewhere in the prison systems.

    "The time for justice is always right now!" - Samantha Booke, Wiley College debate team, 1935

    by Edgewater on Sun Mar 29, 2009 at 06:06:25 AM PDT

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    •  Thank-you (14+ / 0-)

      For pointing out that the prison system is loaded with mentally ill people and they are NOT equipped or trained to deal with them.

      It is a sad, sad state and we are a cruel people as a nation for allowing it to go on.

      There's also the problem with the Christian Right who don't believe in mental health (i.e. psychiatry) but believe praying to God will fix everything (if he just had the Will and the Faith he'd be okay).

      All societies and cultures have their share of the mentally ill, but how you treat those less fortunate to function in society says a lot about that society itself.

      So sad.

      -6.13 -4.4 Where are you? Take the Test!!!

      by MarciaJ720 on Sun Mar 29, 2009 at 06:40:55 AM PDT

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    •  There is another layer people REALLY don't want (4+ / 0-)

      to talk about.  The foster system where only one in five children will survive.  Many will end up in prison, most will need mental health care that simply is not there.  The right to life folks have never worked up to "right to a life."  We do not imprison middle and upper class child molestors, especially if the perp is a family member.  We feel tough about crime if we throw the book at non-violent drug offenders.  Molesting is a crime with a known "vampire effect", and if it involves sex then we become automatic neanderthalls.  Child molestation is not about sex, it is about a diseased mind preying on a weak or defenseless target.  The crime is the lesser part of the thrill, the greater thrill is the manipulation and power of getting away with it.  If the victim understands through effective treatment that they are the victim of an act of violence they are less likely to lose their sense of self.  If the crime is repeated, and the victim is held responsible for being vulnerable to the crime they are often broken in a way they never recover from.  Jim Webb has intestinal fortitude of steel for taking this issue on.  What kind of society will not ask itself where these people are coming from.  Children do indeed learn what they live.  Trickle down justice, like trickle down economics, has only failed since the beginning of time-you think sooner or later we'd learn?

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