Location: Indiana, United States

I became a Professor Emeritus after serving 29 years as a recreational therapy faculty member at Indiana University. I'm a long-time Hoosier, having grown up in Hanover, Indiana. My RT practitioner work was in psych/mental health. After completing my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, my first faculty position was at the University of North Texas. RT has been a wonderful profession for me as I have had the opportunity to serve as an author and national leader.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Many Mentally Ill in Jails!

I just received a release from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Laws on the numbers of persons with mental illness now in jails. In part, in follows. I have remarked following the information from the release. Here is part of the release followed by my comments:

A new study on the prevalence of adults with serious mental illnesses in jails will be released at a congressional staff briefing on Monday, June 1 at 2pm in Room 226, Dirksen Senate Office Building (Washington DC).

Presenters are the study co-author, Fred Osher, M.D. Director, Health Systems and Services Policy, Council of State Governments Justice Center; Judge Steven Leifman, Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health, Supreme Court of Florida; Art Wallenstein. Director, Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, MD; and Fred Frese, Ph.D., a psychologist who is a leading expert and spokesperson on serious mental illnesses, diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 25.

Among the key findings:

14.5 percent of men and 31 percent of women entering the jails studied were found to have serious mental illnesses. These rates are three to six times higher than those found in the general population.
The gender difference is particularly important given the rising number of women in U.S. jails
If applied to the 13 million jail admissions reported in 2007, the findings suggest that more than 2 million bookings of a person with a serious mental illness may occur annually.

This information is disturbing to me. It is apparent that many (if not most) of those with mental illness belong in treatment centers, not jails. The "do gooders" who have forced persons with mentall illness into jails by closing state psychiatric hospitals should hang their heads in shame!

Years ago, when I worked at a state hospital, I would guess that half our patients came to us on court orders. We were able to provide these individuals with treatment from caring mental health professionls, often with wonderful results.

Our society has take a big step backwards by closing off opportunities for those with mental illness to gain treatment. Instead, persons with mental illness now are sent to jail! What a misguided approach.


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