Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mentally Ill Are Often Locked Up In Jails That Can’t Help

That is the title of the article I am writing about click on the link above to read the full story.  “Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Tom Dart walks the halls of his jail every day.  With 10,000 inmates, this place is a small city –except a third of the people here are mentally ill.  Dart has created some of the most innovative programs in the country to handle mentally ill inmates, hiring doctors and psychologists, and training staff.  But if you ask anyone here, even this jail is barely managing. ‘I can’t conceive of anything more ridiculously stupid by government than to do what we’re doing right now.’ Dart says.   Fifty years ago, states began shutting down asylums in favor of community mental health centers.  It was a major policy shift in mental health, allowing patients to go home and live independently.  Over the past decade, though, states have cut billions from their mental health budgets, shuttering clinics across the country.  The result is thousands of mentally ill people funneling in and out of the nation’s jails. In many cases, it has sent the mentally ill right back where they started –locked up in facilities that are ill-equipped to help them.”   For me personally I am glad that they let everyone go.  I hate the state hospital to many games.  People there are not real like they are in prison.  When I first was locked up in the county jail there were not as many homeless as there are today.  Back then the homeless came to jail in the winter to get off the streets they usually received six month sentences.  We knew who they were.
Now mentally ill are put in county jails with the regular population unless they mess up. “It’s staggering’ Elli Petacque Montgomery is the deputy director of mental health policy for the sheriff’s office.  She and her staff screen all of the inmates for mental illness.  It’s not hostile, angry men at the front of cages, bickering with jail staff and pushing each other for more elbow room that interest her.  It’s the men in the corners –men who come to jail and manage, despite the noise and commotion, to fall asleep. I’m kind of curious about this guy in the blue, ‘says Montgomery, pointing to a man sitting quietly on a bench.  Now, is he dazed because he’s on drugs or because the voices in his head are louder than what’s happening around him?’  On this morning, one inmate after another has a problem.  One man tells her he’s going to kill himself because he thinks he’s already dead.  Another guy explains that the voices tell him to hurt people.  To walk in and feel like every other person I’m interviewing [is] mentally ill on any given day, I can’t wrap my brain around it, she says. It’s staggering what we’re dealing with. Most of these men are here on minor offenses. Police have picked them up for small crimes like acting out in front of restaurants, sleeping in abandoned buildings or possessing drugs. They’re people with nowhere to go and nowhere to get medication.  Some of them will stay for a few days; some for a few weeks.  But statistically almost all of them will be back.  While these men are here, the jail’s responsibility is to keep other inmates from hurting them and them from hurting themselves.  But jail staff say what really happens deep inside this jail is a far cry from actual treatment.”  I know that from being in the county jail before I was sent to the state hospital that jail is no place to be mentally ill.  I did a lot of my time that time being in the infirmary and that being in protective custody a place I should have never been.  I had a mental illness when I was there.
The article goes on to say: “Sometimes I would even commit a crime just to make sure I would get my meds, says inmate Joseph DeRiggi.  Here, there’s a little more understanding because they know us: ‘OK, DeRiggi, we know what you’re on. You’re good.’  That’s just the way it is.  But jail is an expensive place to get medication. It costs almost $200 a night to house a mentally ill person here; health clinics cost a fraction of that.  Plus, their cases clog the courts with largely minor offenses.  That lengthens jail time for everyone.  The average stay is now eight days longer than it was a few years ago.  Adding eight days cost county taxpayers $10 million more every year.  He says he understands that money for community health centers is tight. But he says doing it this way is costing more.  Clearly, our society had determined that state-run mental hospitals were abhorrent, that my God, our society cannot tolerate this, we’re much more advanced than that, Dart says. ‘I just find the irony so thick that same society finds it OK to put the same people in jails and prisons.’ But then he shakes his head and changes his mind. ‘ I know people care, ‘ he says, pausing ‘ I don’t think they know’”  How would you know unless you at some time were locked up.  I know that people from the old days were ashamed that they broke down and had a mental illness.  I know it happen to me and one other person I knew in prison my friends were ready to stand by me.  Although I could not face them knowing that I was not strong enough to finish my time even though I was waiting on my appeal.

No comments:

Post a Comment