The treatment of prisoners with mental illness is often barbaric if not medieval. Here’s what needs to stop.
At some point in the 1970s the decision was made to close state-run mental health institutions. Much of this was motivated by The Community Mental Health Act in 1963. Reports at the time indicated significant abuse of patients and a general lack of credible mental health care. The idea was that funds would be redirected from the states to local communities to manage and monitor the needs of individuals with mental health issues. Unfortunately, this transfer of funds never happened and local communities were simply overwhelmed.
The result was that many people with mental illnesses found themselves in the prison system. Systems underfunded and understaffed without training who were primarily focused on incarceration rather than the needs of anyone with a health condition defined by mental illness.
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