Why Are We Using Prisons to Treat Mental Illness?

Brave New Films has a series called Over Criminalized.

I have seen two of the episodes on YouTube. Here is the first episode, Why Are We Using Prisons to Treat Mental Illness?

It’s simple. Diversion programs work better than incarceration – for everyone. In cities like Seattle, San Antonio, and Salt Lake City, we see that successful solutions are a viable option to help end serious social problems. These services alter the course of people’s lives in a positive way and save taxpayers huge amounts of money. We cannot continue to isolate and imprison people who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or homelessness. We must treat them with compassion and care to better serve our communities and our pocketbooks.

When Charlie Baker first saw the horrible conditions in the underfunded Massachusetts state mental hospitals, I wonder if programs like the one in the above video existed. Had he known about these, would he have “fixed” Massachusetts’ problem the way he did? He closed the state mental hospitals, relegated the residents to underfunded to non-existent community based programs, and called it a success.

This is the kind of “successful” management skills that the people of Massachusetts just chose to put in the Governor’s office. Would the people of Massachusetts have been so eager to have Charlie Baker if someone like Don Berwick had explained that there is a more humane way to treat mentally ill people that costs even less than the Baker plan? Martha Coakley, who made mental health treatment a major component of her campaign, should have used this video to explain to the voters what she meant. I am sad to say that I came across this video three days after she lost the election.

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