Florida Makes Changes to Mentally Ill Prisoner Treatment
> 1/15/2007 3:08:21 PM

Updating a story we covered back in November, the Florida legislature has acted, in an emergency session, to create 373 new beds for mentally ill men and women who have been kept in jail by the state while they await treatment. All that was necessary to make these changes happen was a state circuit judge leveling a charge of indirect criminal contempt at former secretary of the state's Department of Children and Families, who resigned in December and was fined $80,000, for keeping mentally ill inmates behind bars longer than the state laws allowed.

As the Tallahassee Democrat notes, the new action by the legislature represents a move in the right direction, but is so paltry in comparison to the problem that one might consider it criminal in its own right. The new DCF head, Bob Butterworth has pushed a proposal for even more funding, which, while maybe not a permanent solution, would make significant headway in terms of setting a precedent.

Writing in an editorial in today's New York Times, Robert Harcourt takes on the issue of mental illness and imprisonment. He notes that while statistics show an increase in the number of Americans in prison, when one takes into account those who were housed in mental health institutions through the 70s and early 80s, that rise doesn't seem that large at all.

What few people realize, though, is that in the 1940s and 50s we institutionalized people at even higher rates only it was in mental hospitals and asylums. Simply put, when the data on state and county mental hospitalization rates are combined with the data on prison rates for 1928 through 2000, the imprisonment revolution of the late 20th century barely reaches the level we experienced at mid-century. Our current culture of control is by no means new.

Harcourt points to a changing definition and plan of action regarding "deviance." He only points to the erratic nature of our treatment of the mentally ill, refusing to draw conclusions to its overall effect on crime, but we won't hold back. Whether its Florida, Montana or Maine: sending the mentally ill to prison without the treatment that could benefit them and society at large, is just unacceptable.


just a note to say thank you for linking to the MindFields College blog - greatly appreciated - and thanks for your consistantly high quality posts.
URL: mindsalot.wordpress.com
Posted by: eleanor 1/16/2007 5:30:26 AM

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