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June 11, 2018

Spotlighting the role of prisons and jails as our modern mental health facilities

Esquire has this lengthy piece on modern prison realities that is notable for both its content and its author.  The full title and subtitled reveals its contents and author:

'THIS PLACE IS CRAZY': Our mental-health-care system is broken.  Ten of every eleven psychiatric patients housed by the government are incarcerated. Here’s what this crisis looks like from the inside—a series of lost lives and a few rare victories—as reported by a prisoner-journalist.

Here is the full bio from the article of the article's author:

John J. Lennon, a contributing writer at The Marshall Project, has written for Vice, The Atlantic, and The New York Times.  He is currently in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York.  He will be eligible for parole in 2029.

And here is a snippet from the piece worth reading in full:

Nearly 20 percent of the fifty-two thousand prisoners in New York’s prison system — ten thousand in all — have mental illness.  The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), which runs the state’s correctional facilities and supervises its parolees, is not alone: Nearly four hundred thousand of 2.2 million prisoners nationwide have a psychiatric diagnosis. Compare that with the thirty-eight thousand patients that the country’s state-run psych hospitals can accommodate.  The math is as easy as it is shocking: Ten out of every eleven psychiatric patients housed by the government are behind bars.

The financial toll is enormous: Treating prisoners with mental illness costs twice as much as providing community-based care.  State prisons spend an estimated $5 billion each year to imprison nonviolent offenders with a disorder.  As the National Alliance on Mental Illness says, “In a mental-health crisis, people are more likely to encounter police than get medical help.”  Jails and prisons have become our de facto asylums.

June 11, 2018 at 09:50 PM | Permalink


A third of prison beds around the country are filled by people with straight chronic mental illness. Most do get decent psychiatric care. They are better off in prison than on the street. The tax payer is better off institutionalizing them at $100 a day, than at 5 times that much, in a "treatment" facility. That $500 cost is totally the result of quack regulations, mostly written by lawyers, and allowed by health care providers only too glad to take the tax money by complying with these quack regulation. It costs around $100,000 to build a psychiatric unit room in a hospital, $30000 to build one at the Ritz Carlton. Why? Quack regulations. So prisons are a good place for chronic psychiatric patients until the lawyer profession can be crushed.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 12, 2018 1:01:52 AM

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