All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mentally ill behind bars

A Michigan sheriff recently stated a fact that a whole lot of families already knew: prisons and jails have become the new institutions for the mentally ill.

In a fine piece on the subject, Detroit Free Press writer Jeff Gerritt said that, according to a University of Michigan study, more than 20% of the state's prisoners had severe mental disabilities---and far more were mentally ill. The same study found that 65% of prisoners with several mental disabilities had received no treatment in the previous 12 months. An outrage.

The big question.

What are you going to do about it?

If our experience provides that answer, we'd have to say that John Q. Public will do very little.

HOWEVER, it's a different story for people who have a loved one in prison. I worked side-by-side with Mary Ann when her brother Arnie---who was mentally challenged---suffered abuse on a routine basis in prison. We didn't just work. We fought!

And we're still working side-by-side with Lois, who has a son in prison who has mental issues. She fights 24/7. She has to, or her son will receive shameful treatment.

The simple fact is that prison staffers don't have training to deal with the mentally ill, and fellow prisoners don't know how to handle the mentally ill. For the unstable prisoner, it's a double whammy. Prisoners beat the tar out of him because they don't understand him. Guards beat and punish him because he doesn't understand the rules, and therefore he violates them.

I hope you won't leave this up to those with mentally ill family members in prison.

You can make a huge difference by applying pressure to your elected state officials. Jails and prisons are no alternative for mental institutions, and jail and prison guards are no alternative for trained caretakers.

It's time for change.

1 comment:

B said...

I am afraid this problem can be found all over the world. We, in Belgium, have the same situation, numbers may be different, but mentally ill people wind up behind bars, cause there is no where else to put them... :(