Fault Lines – Mental Illness in America’s Prisons

2 thoughts on “Fault Lines – Mental Illness in America’s Prisons

  1. GOOD NEWS! Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX) introduced H.R.619 in January 2009 to amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to resume Medicaid for pscychiatric hospital inpatients. If the bill is passed, mental hospitals would again be available for middle class and indigent mental patients in crisis who need short-term inpatient care as well as those who have severe cases of mental illness requiring long-term commitment. Most Americans do not know that mental hospital insurance was not included in the national health care reform bill that Congress passed recently. Mentally ill people are being preserved untreated to commit crimes from vagrancy to murders so they can become future prisoners of America. Support H.R.619 to decriminalize mental illness. Passing that bill will help resolve many prison issues related to strained prison budgets, such as overcrowding and inadequate inmate medical care. H.R.619 is endorsed by NAMI, Treatment Advocacy Center, and many other mental health advocacy organizations and activists. All prisoner activists should know about and support this censored health bill. Please read about and VOTE for this congressional H.R.619 at this OpenCongress.org link: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h619/show

    Thanks for publishing the plight of 1.25 million mentally ill inmates and their families. It is much less expensive to give psychiatric treatment timely than it is to await some tragedy to treat mental patients in crisis. Furthermore, increasing accessibility to psychiatric care under H.R.619 would promote community safety.

    The private prison industry was built on criminalizing mental illness. Step 1 – Medicaid funds for inpatient treatment was deleted under Pres. Regan; Step 2 – Hundreds of thousands of chronic mental patients were expelled from America’s mental hospitals after Medicaid stopped covering psychiatric inpatients; Step 3 – Most of those released mental patients as well as people with psychiatric issues in subsequent decades wound up in prison; Step 4 – Public correctional facilities filled to overflowing once mental illness was criminalized, creating the artificial need for private prisons and jails. The private prison industry was created by discriminating against the mentally ill – the only people who are imprisoned rather than treated for having a common health condition. To ensure a continuous stream of mentally challenged people into prisons, stingent laws were passed to prevent families from getting help for mentally ill relatives in crisis. They must PROVE to be a danger to self and others. That means waiting until there are smoking guns or dripping knives before the government responds. After avoidable crimes, the mentally ill are ordinarily jailed rather than hospitalized. After arrest, they are treated for their psychiatric disorders to get them “trial ready,” and the judge and jury see a calm, rational defendant before them instead of the very sick person who committed the offense. Most insanity pleas therefore do not save acute mental patients from being convicted, and some are on death row.

    Help promote H.R.619 and stop the revolving door to prisons for America’s mental patients. More information about the quest to decriminalize mental illness is at the website for ASSISTANCE TO THE INCARCERATED MENTALLY ILL, an online advocacy group that I founded after the SECRET arrest and murder of Larry Neal, a lifelong schizophrenic heart patient who police were tired of arresting for petty crimes like disturbing the peace. So they ended his life in 2003.

    Mary Neal


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