Why Jail is No Place for the Mentally Troubled

In a discussion with The Crime Report about her new book, “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness,” Alisa Roth, a former Soros Justice Fellow, describes how jails and prisons have become the nation’s principal institutions for treating mentally troubled individuals, and suggests that strategies for developing more humane, treatment-oriented alternatives have to begin at the state and local levels.

“We talk about the issue of race in the criminal justice system, we talk about the issue of poverty in the criminal justice system, but we don’t talk about mental illness. These three intersect and overlap, but we can’t think about global reform without addressing the mental health question.”

On Solitary Confinement: “I think it speaks to a larger issue: We take people with mental illness, we lock them away, someplace we don’t need to see them. If we put them in jail or prison we don’t need to see them or step over them on our way to Starbucks in the morning. Solitary confinement is a reflection of that. But it makes everything so much worse.”

“I think that the story of mental illness in the criminal justice system is as much a story of mass incarceration as it is of de-institutionalization.”

Read the full interview here.

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