Paco: Insane or not, NUTS to ‘treatment’ in lieu of incarceration
Reinforcing their role as the “new asylums,” U.S. prisons now house 10 times as many seriously mentally ill people as state psychiatric hospitals do, a new national report shows.
An estimated 356,268 seriously mentally ill inmates were housed in prisons and jails nationally in 2012, compared with about 35,000 patients in mental hospitals, according to a report released Tuesday. The Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association released “Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey.” (The Columbus Dispatch)
“Behavioral-health experts say prisons and jails were not designed and are not equipped and staffed to handle the huge influx of inmates with mental illness, Reporter Alan Johnson correctly notes. “Yet, that’s where many mentally ill individuals end up as a result of the closing of psychiatric hospitals and cutbacks to community treatment and shelter programs.” But there’s more to it than is noted in Mr. Johnson’s report.
For instance, Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey, is an annual joint report from organizations that openly advocate a specific policy. The full title of the report is Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey April 8 , 2014. While the reporter surely did not intend to mislead, the headline and body leave the reader with the impression the report reflects a “new” study with fresh conclusions rather than an annual report which merely updates and appends its predecessors.
Which is to say, accurate and specific though it may be, the report is explicitly biased. Both the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriff’s Association have agendas and skin-in-the-game.
And, unlike the hard data ostensibly underlying the 2014 iteration, the document is completely void of tables, charts or, for that matter, anything to indicate what year(s) are reflected as the latest data. It does footnote its assertions with sources such as the Bureau of Justice Statistics, but no tables.
Paco likes tables, charts and graphs as they allow me to see the numbers and evaluate them on my own, as opposed to some scholarly advocate telling me some footnoted report says this or that.
Having said that, I don’t differ much and agree with the proposal mental health treatment, from public clinics to secure hospitals, ought to be sufficiently funded to (hopefully) treat the mentally ill before they become a law enforcement problem.
At the same time, the problem simply isn’t as black and white as mental health advocates would have us believe.
At the very least, it is fair to say mentally ill criminals may be separated into 2 subsets:
- Criminals, who exhibit mental illness at some juncture and,
- Mentally ill people, who exhibit criminal behavior at some juncture.
Or, for sarcasm’s sake, it’s a question of which came first, the Cuckoo or the egg. And, regardless, any serious discussion of the problem must acknowledge prison, including appropriate treatment, is the right place for many mentally ill criminals–Mental hospitals are AT LEAST as ill-equipped to house violent offenders as prisons are to treat psychiatric offenders.
Just as increasing education spending is no panacea for crime, mental health programs are not an alternative to incarceration, or ought not be.
Rather, mental health programs and facilities must be in place in order to facilitate intervention before the subject presents a threat to public safety and the general peace and welfare of the community. OF COURSE, effective intervention would require legislation making involuntary admission MUCH easier and the ACLU et al. would squash it in an embryonic heartbeat. This is the dichotomy behind the conundrum.
Those who don’t want the mentally ill in prison (Treatment Advocacy Center) ALSO object to sending them to mental hospitals–They oppose involuntary medication regimens necessary in many cases. The Sheriffs (DOC Directors et al.) don’t want to deal with them at all.
This has been going on since Ronald Reagan was California’s Governor and the ACLU prevailed in gutting involuntary admissions. Homelessness became a common term soon thereafter. The number of kooks landing at the Reception Centers began to climb. And so it goes. And as goes California…
So, the real news is: More mentally ill people are going to jail and prison, as are more sane people, just like last year.
Next year, the same report will be regurgitated, updated and digested again for your review. If you can’t wait, following is the summary.
Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey April 9 , 2015
More mentally ill people are going to jail and prison, as are more sane people, just like last year.
Stay tuned. -
(The full report may be viewed at http://www.tacreports.org/treatment-behind-bars)