Jail And The Mentally Ill

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koan
Posts: 16817
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:00 pm

Jail And The Mentally Ill

Post by koan »

Jamie Fellner, Director of the U.S. Program of Human Rights Watch, says that “Prisons have become the nation’s primary mental health facilities,” and that “... for those with serious illnesses, prison can be the worst place to be.” http://hrw.org/english/docs/2003/10/22/usdom6472.htm

In a report called Ill-Equipped:U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness, the statistics are given that “Persons with mental illness are disproportionately represented in correctional institutions. While about 5 percent of the U.S. population suffers from mental illness, a 1998 report noted that 'studies and clinical experience indicate that somewhere between 8 and 19 percent of prisoners have significant psychiatric or functional disabilities and another 15 to 20 percent will require some form of psychiatric intervention during their incarceration.'” At the time of the report, this represents approximately 300,000 men and women in U.S. prisons today who are seriously mentally ill, and 70,000 who are psychotic. Additionally, the report goes on to state that “[a]s these numbers suggest, prisons have become warehouses for a large proportion of the country’s men and women with mental illness. In September 2000, Congressman Ted Strickland informed his colleagues on the House Subcommittee on Crime that between 25 and 40 percent of all mentally ill Americans would, at some point in their lives, become entangled in the criminal justice system.”

This percentage compares to only a 5.1% chance of incarceration for an American in general versus the up to 40% chance for mentally ill. (Racially, an African American faces a 16.2% chance, Hispanic 9.4%, and White 2.5%.)

The behaviour of mentally ill prisoners is often used to create a negative image of prisoners in general and to influence the public opinion on how prisoners should be treated. In a time when the number of incarcerated criminals and the expense of the prison system is of great public concern, separating the criminals from the insane is an important issue. Not only are the mentally ill being made worse by their incarceration, ideas on the treatment of prisoners is being affected by reflecting their behaviour as “normal”.
koan
Posts: 16817
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:00 pm

Jail And The Mentally Ill

Post by koan »

"She drove by in the hospital parking lot as I was getting into my cruiser. She parked and approached me. She was polite and attractive. She told me she wanted to talk to me and then was silent. I then began to feel that something was bothering her.

"I asked, 'Is there something I can do for you?' She then pulled a revolver out of her purse and aimed it at my chest. We were standing about 6 feet apart. For a split second, I could see the round in the chamber of her gun. I thought, "Is this some kind of a joke?" But the look in her eyes told me it wasn't. I drew my weapon, aimed and fired. She fell to the pavement. I rushed to her - trying to stem the bleeding.

"We were in the parking lot of the emergency room. I knew she would get immediate care. I watched as the doctors worked on her. An hour and a half later, she was dead. In her car was a note: "Please forgive me. My intention was never to hurt anyone. This was just a sad and sick ruse to get someone to shoot me. I'm so very sorry for pulling innocent people into this. I just didn't have the nerve to pull the trigger myself." She left her name and address and the names of her parents adding, 'I am very sorry for this.'"

This is the story of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Glenn Vincent, who, on his 29th birthday, shot a 30 year old woman who family members said, suffered from debilitating headaches and depression. She had made a number of suicide attempts in the past.

"Every year after on my birthday, I would be reminded of the shooting from the pain I had inside. I didn't feel like John Wayne or Dirty Harry. This was not a movie. I continued to hurt inside. I am no RoboCop, " states the deputy.

According to recent studies, police-assisted suicide or "suicide by cop" occurs in 10-15% of officer involved shootings.

source

A group called CABLE (Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement) was formed to help increase awareness of "suicide by cop", a technique used by some mentally ill to end their lives. Capt. Ken Edwards at the New London Police Department came across the group during research on the phenomenon and immediately formed an alliance between CABLE and his new CIT team. The relationship between mental illness and crime extends to many forms but until it importance is placed on studying and dealing with the problem, like Capt. Edwards is doing, it will continue to blur the line between illness and crime.
koan
Posts: 16817
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:00 pm

Jail And The Mentally Ill

Post by koan »

I was working on a documentary in downtown eastside Vancouver and it's one of the worst examples of what you are talking about.

I watched people going in and and out of the "hard to house" complex across from a business establishment. One of the men used to walk out without pants on every few days. He didn't know better. The cops would just help him back into his hotel and let him know he needed clothes. He was mentally ill. They "eliminated" beds from the hospital and all these people ended up downtown next to the junkies using puddle water to shoot up.

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