Prison Replaces Community Mental Health

The Most Revolutionary Act

lunatic-asylumOld lunatic asylum

This final post concerns the third main driver of high US incarceration rates: the warehousing of the mentally ill in America’s prisons and jails. It’s the one I’m most intimately acquainted with, after campaigning for 14 years, alongside the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, to end this medieval barbarism. Federal and state lawmakers are perfectly aware that 1) this 40 year old practice constitutes a crime against humanity under international law and 2) that imprisoning the mentally ill costs taxpayers two to three times as much as community treatment. Yet our elected representatives remain unwilling or incapable of rectifying this problem.*

According to Health Affairs, 20 percent of US prison inmates have a serious mental illness and 30 to 60 percent have substance abuse problems. Between 50 and 70 percent have mild to moderate mental disorder.  Al Jazeera reports that people with severe mental illness…

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