Saturday, August 20, 2011

The mentally ill cannot win in prison

I had an opportunity to chat with Lois the other day. She has a teenaged son in prison who is mentally challenged and who, I fear, is in there for a long time. He shouldn't be in there at all.

She shared pictures with me that were heartbreaking. Her son was chained to the concrete floor, but the guards were kind about it...they placed a blanket in between him and the cement. The reason for the shackles was simple in the minds of the guards: He had been trying to injure himself, and for a while he was successful. So, to prevent him from hurting himself, chain him up, including legs and feet. No one suggested that he was trying to kick himself, but I guess if you're gonna do it, you'd better do it all the way.

Here's the problem, and it is a brutal, vicious cycle. This teenager and many mentally ill prisoners like him are not treated well by guards and fellow prisoners because their behavior is less than stellar. And so, their behavior get's worse. Then the guards take stronger action, and write tickets. The more they do this, the worse the behavior of the prisoner gets. And it goes on and on. And the worse this situation gets, the less likely the chances that a prisoner will be released early, or released at all.

In many cases, I think it's very fair to say that these people should not be in prison in the first place. Granted, there are some vicious and brutal crimes, and these must be considered in a separate discussion. But the prisoners I'm talking about are in for such things as home invasion or playing doctor with their little kid friends. No major violence, and no major sex crimes. And yet judges who aren't thinking clearly decide that the way to make society better for all of us is to lock up these mental cases. Where is the sense in all of this? Then the jailers go one step farther: They put these sick people in the hole. The nice term is protective segregation. In some cases the mentally ill prisoners are locked in seclusion in the dark! If a sane person was placed alone in a dark room for 22 hours a day with nothing to do, no radio or televion, no one to talk to and nothing to read, my guess is that person would come out mentally ill. Is this a way to treat our fellow human beings? I think it is absolutely shameful.

Lois would like to get her son out of there and into some kind of a private facility where his treatment would be guaranteed, where the medicine would always be correct and on time. She doesn't want her son injuring himself, but she's not convinced that the only way to stop that is to shackle his whole body with chains to the concrete.

Not until someone in authority with a conscience steps in will we see any improvement, or even any change.

Only you and I can make that happen, and that's by contacting elected officials. The one thing these people understand is getting re-elected.

Let's get started.

1 comment:

Citizens for Prison Reform said...

Thanks for thinking of Kevin Doug! We need many prayers right now.

Many prayers that we can work together to bring change and humane to all prisoners!

It was great to see you again at your Pickin' and Grinnin' event.