JUSTICE QUEST FOR AMERICA'S MENTALLY ILL PRISONERS, by Mary Neal
duo | April 16, 2008 at 01:40 pmby
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http://www.petitiononline.com/Neal/petition.html Substantially more mentally ill people are imprisoned than we initially understood. I always number them at over 200,000, but have been informed by my congressman that the actual number of mentally ill prisoners in America is about 1.25 million! See the attached letter to me from Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA). He has a commitment to assisting the mentally ill and voted in favor of the Mental Health Parity Act. Congressman Johnson expresses a desire to increase the availability of mental health services to patients upon their release from jails and prisons, which may reduce the likelihood of their re-entry into the prison system – a common occurrence. April 10, 2008 Ms. Mary Neal [address redacted] Dear Ms. Neal, Thank you for contacting me to express support for funding decriminalization of the mentally ill. I welcome feedback from my constituents and appreciate your interest. As you know, crimes committed by the mentally ill are a problem that affects everyone in our society, from law enforcement to their family members. Persons suffering from schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and many other diseases and disorders, when not taking medications, can cause harm to themselves and others. Due to their illnesses, the images and hallucinations they see are their reality and cause them to act in ways which may violate the law. Some victims cannot afford to stay on their medications due to rising healthcare and prescription drugs costs, which lead to this problem. H.R.1593, the Community Safety Through Recidivism Prevention, also known as the Second Chance Act is a piece of legislation that directly deals with this issue. I was an original cosponsor and voted for the bill in committee and on the floor. The Senate has passed the legislation and it is not awaiting the signature of the President. According to the testimony given by Lt. Richard Wall of the L.A. Police Department, prisons have become the nations "de facto metal healthcare provider." Furthermore, according to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are about 1.25 million inmates with mental disorders in our nation's prisons. I am for better treatment of prisoners returning to society and the reduction in recidivism and will look into further legislation to that end. I am always eager to hear your concerns and look forward to working with you in the future. For more information, please visit my office online at hankjohnson.house.gov. Thank you again for contacting me. Sincerely, Hank Johnson I wrote back to Congressman Johnson expressing my appreciation of his dedication to mental health issues, and I included a paragraph from our announcement for Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill ("AIMI") discussing the importance of making in-patient treatment and enforced treatment more accessible, when warranted. I want our representatives to understand, as they make decisions about mental health care, that many of our citizens stricken with the most acute forms of mental illness are least likely to accept treatment unless it is enforced. Most mentally ill people never hurt anyone and are not suicidal. However, the prison system does them considerable harm, especially with the advent of Taser guns and restraint chairs, which cause death to many citizens, including the mentally ill. However, there are those mental patients, like Mr. Cho, the VA Tech student who killed 32 people on campus, who remind us that public safety may be improved if the laws restricting mandatory treatment were relaxed to the degree that families could more easily ascertain treatment for their mentally ill relatives in a crisis. Every attempt must be made to ensure the safety and humane treatment of mentally ill persons institutionalized in our country in order to avoid the abuses that did and still do occur in some of our large sanitariums. Better oversight is required, rather than closure of these facilities, as many acutely mentally ill persons require in-patient treatment for indefinite periods. MENTAL HEALTH HISTORY OF SEUNG HUI CHO Governor Kaine convened a panel of professionals to learn more about Virginia Tech student, Seung Cho, who killed 32 people, and develop a profile of Cho and his mental health history. The report states in part: In the eleventh grade, Cho’s weekly sessions at the mental health center came to an end because there was a gradual, if slight, improvement over the years and he resisted continuing, according to his parents and therapist. “There is nothing wrong with me. Why do I have to go?” he complained to his parents. Mr. and Mrs. Cho were not happy that their son chose to discontinue treatment, but he was turning 18 the following month and legally he could make that decision. See the full report at this link: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/TempContent/techpanelreport.cfm Unfortunately, Seung Cho's decision not to be treated for his mental illness is typical of many acutely mentally disturbed persons. I received a letter recently from a lady who suffered a horrible crisis (she is bi-polar) that left her incarcerated for almost a year, where she suffered for many hours in a restraint chair. Thank God she lived to tell about it! She now makes sure that she gets the treatment she needs. In her case, this includes medication and attending psychiatric sessions. She reported to me that of all the people in her therapy sessions, only two are there of their own free will. The others are only there due to a court order. Once the terms of these mental patients' court order have been met, will they continue therapy? See http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/04/MNI4T5L3S.DTL to examine how the rights of the mentally ill often thwart efforts to assist them. Below is an excerpt from our announcement for Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill that was sent to Congressman Johnson. See the full announcement at Announcing Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentall... Presently, only the mentally ill who seek and/or willingly accept psychiatric treatment are serviced or hospitalized, unless or until patients are deemed by authorities to be a danger to themselves or others. People who are too sick to recognize their own psychosis are left largely to their own devices. Here is a secret we learned during years of visiting Larry in mental institutions and having met many sick patients: Many acutely mentally ill people simply do not know/believe/accept that they are sick. Many mentally ill people would recover sufficiently to function well in society with proper psychiatric treatment, but too often, patients’ lack of recognition of their own psychosis prevents access to needed care. Ironically, the movement to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill in America and to curtail enforced treatment options was led for the most part by ex‑psychiatric patients who had themselves been institutionalized. There was a time when even people suffering epilepsy or nervous breakdown were institutionalized. Rejoining society obviously worked well for those who were capable of the self-discipline and presence of mind to launch this movement, many of whom went on to pursue psychiatric careers after release from asylums. But deinstitutionalization was a tragic development for people like Larry and thousands of other sick people presently incarcerated, having only swapped hospital care for jail cells. That is why this mental health system based on voluntary treatment has failed and our humanitarian decision of the 1970’s to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill has resulted in a growing prison population of mentally ill detainees. How humane is jailing sick people?
Other side-effects of our “patients in charge” mental health system are overcrowded jails, an overtaxed criminal justice system, increasing homelessness, and a more dangerous society. Both the Texas woman who drowned her five children and the Virginia Tech student who killed 32 people during a violent rampage were mental patients who needed better treatment and control.
We must free our nation’s law enforcement to get back to the business of fighting crime rather than acting as psychiatric caretakers. It is cruel and unusual punishment to jail people whose mental capacity is such that they have limited or no understanding of their criminal charges and their Miranda rights. Our law officers are involved in the business of crime and punishment, not mental health. It is unfair to put our law officers in the position of psychiatric caretakers for America’s mental patients, and it is wrong of our government to incarcerate citizens for having a disability. See http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com
JUNE 4, 2008 UPDATE:
SEAN LEVERT'S WIDOW FILES WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT
CLEVELAND - (AP) The widow of R&B singer Sean Levert has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county officials who were holding him.
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
P.O. Box 7222
Atlanta, GA 30357
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Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States
Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States
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