Report: When did prisons become acceptable mental healthcare facilities?
We can no longer ignore the massive oppression we are inflicting upon the mentally ill throughout the United States. Over a century ago, Dorothea Dix began a movement to improve the deplorable conditions of mentally ill prisoners. Despite her success in changing the country’s perception and treatment of the mentally ill in prison, we are now right back where we started in the nineteenth century. Although deinstitutionalization was originally understood as a humane way to offer more suitable services to the mentally ill in community-based settings, some politicians seized upon it as a way to save money by shutting down institutions without providing any meaningful treatment alternatives. This callousness has created a one-way road to prison for massive numbers of impaired individuals and the inhumane warehousing of thousands of mentally ill people.
From time to time there have been efforts to expose this disaster but, until now, bold proposals for solutions have been lacking. We have seen periodic criticism, but no serious desire or determination for change. We, in California, can and will do better. Today, we jointly offer three modest but significant proposals to start us on the path of compassionate, fair and cost-effective solutions to the crisis we face.