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October 28, 2014

Notable pitch for California Prop 47 based in mental health concerns

This new Sacramento Bee commentary, authored by Darrell Steinberg and Rusty Selix, makes an interesting pitch for Proposition 47 in California. The piece is headlined "Prop. 47 can help fix prison mental health crisis," and here are excerpts:

Earlier this year, Stanford Law School reported that the number of mentally ill people in California prisons doubled from 2000 to 2014; currently 45 percent of prisoners have been treated for mental illness within the past year.

The study also echoed findings by the U.S. Justice Department that mentally ill inmates in state prisons serve 15 months longer than other inmates on average. Such inmates are also stuck, without treatment, in cycles of crime and incarceration.  A study in Los Angeles County found that 90 percent of jail inmates who had been incarcerated two or more times had serious mental health problems.

All this adds up to an incredibly expensive and ineffective approach to both public safety and public health.  So how did we arrive at this crisis?  From the 1950s through the 1970s, California passed laws to move responsibility for mental health care from large state institutions to a model of local, community-based care.  But there never was any follow-through to ensure that infrastructure was created and supported.

As local and state leaders battled over other budgets priorities, mental health beds vanished and nothing materialized at the local level.  As a recent example, California cut 21 percent ($586 million) from mental health programs from 2009 to 2012 -- the most in the nation -- according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. By failing to invest in local treatment and recovery options, it is, sadly, no surprise that people with mental health needs have ended up in our jails, courts and prisons.

And while there needs to be accountability for crimes, warehousing mentally ill people in our prisons -- forcing them to live in crowded, violent and solitary conditions -- does not address the underlying factors of their behavior.  In fact, California is currently under a federal mandate to reduce prison crowding partly because of a lawsuit about inadequate mental health care.

If our goal is to change behavior, then accountability must take into account how to prevent future harm.  In other words, treating mental illness is not simply a moral obligation but also a public safety strategy.  Growing consensus for such a strategy inspired us in 2004 to author the California Mental Health Services Act, a successful voter initiative that produced $7.4 billion for mental health needs and that served 400,000 Californians within its first five years.

We are awed by the impact, but 10 years later we still have far too many people with mental illness cycling in and out of our prisons and jails -- and far too much taxpayer money locked in that same system.  That’s why we support Proposition 47, along with the California Psychiatric Association, some law enforcement officials, crime victims, business leaders and many others.

The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act would provide $50 million to $100 million each year for mental health and drug treatment.  It would do so through reduced prison costs, specifically by categorizing six nonviolent, low-level felonies as misdemeanors (e.g., drug possession, petty shoplifting and writing a bad check) that can be addressed with county jail terms, treatment requirements and other forms of accountability.

Prior related posts on California's Prop 47:

October 28, 2014 at 10:33 AM | Permalink


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It should be noted that most rampage killers have paranoid schizophrenia. People with this condition commit 10% of the murders around the world, whether in low murder rate areas or in high murder rate areas.

Say someone causes a disturbance on a bus, is arrested. Bail is $100. The family will not post bail because he is finally off the street, and more likely to be forced into treatment.

There is a pernicious, lawyer driven trend, now official federal policy. It is the Recovery Model. The patient is made head of the treatment team, and runs the show. In paranoid schizophrenia, the patient believes in his firmly held fears, and believes it is others who are mistaken. They made that guy head of his own treatment team. So he cannot be told to get treatment.


Stunning revelation from the Vtech investigation of the rampage killing by Cho. I bashed the legal system after it prevented the college officials to contact the family to get him help after dozens of warnings and complaints about Cho. . However, in that case, there was a commitment hearing, with an order into involuntary treatment. So the legal system did its job. I acknowledge the legal system did its job. He goes to the student clinic. He says, I have nothing wrong with me, I prefer to not have treatment. In accordance with their Recovery Model philosophy, they discharge him from involuntary, judge ordered care. So he kills 32 people after the students enter into a conspiracy with the ducks in the pond that had been tormenting him for years. Here is the most shocking ting of all. A year later, after the dust has settled, and they are not going to be sued, after they can relax and be candid, the clinic personnel say, they would have done the same, in accordance with the Recovery Model.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 28, 2014 1:07:19 PM

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