October 25, 2003
Prisons or dumping grounds?
Human Rights Watch says, "Jails and prisons have become the nations' default mental health system," as many state mental hospitals have closed. Startling is the statistic that as many as one in five inmates have serious mental illness. That is more than 2 million.
Old friend Jamie Fellner authored the report and she said, "I think elected officials have been all too willing to let the incarcerated population grow by leaps and bounds without paying any attention to who, in fact is being incarcerated." One supposes that it its less expensive to throw a seriously mentally ill person in isolation than to treat him in a hospital.
We found that about one-third of the inmates at Wisconsin's Supermax were seriously mentally ill. Thanks to a ruling by Federal Judge Barbara Crabb, they have been removed from Supermax, but are they better off in one of the other prisons? Are prison guards trained to handle the mentally ill? Do staff members keep the mentally ill so drugged up that they are not causing problems but also cannot participate in rehab?
Health care drew Fellner's attention. In Wyoming the state prison had one psychiatrist on duty two days a month. In Iowa, with 8,000 inmates, there are three psychiatrists. As our legislators continue to provide more and more reasons to lock up citizens to show us how tough they are, they have no concept or concern about what is happening within the prisons.
And they say we judge a society by the way it treats its prisoners?
post a letter about this blog »