Deinstitutionalization In Mental Justice System

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The United States has perpetuated a culture of silence and denial surrounding mental illness. In the 1960s and early 70s, the U.S. began the process of “deinstitutionalization,” and, according to journalist Joe Nocera, this process has become a national disgrace (2012). Deinstitutionalization refers to the policy of closing public hospitals and moving the mentally ill to private community-based mental health service providers (Torrey 1997). However, community-based mental health service providers are few and far between, and the development of deinstitutionalization has had severe impacts on the criminal justice system. Through the movement of deinstitutionalization, jails and prisons have been forced to accommodate those with mental illness. …show more content…
The Times article focuses on two specific incidents, one with an inmate named Jose Bautista and one with an inmate named Andre Lane. Bautista used his underwear to try and hang himself in his cell, but his suicide attempt was unsuccessful because officers caught him and rushed to get him down. The officers then handcuffed Bautista, forced him onto the ground, and beat him with such force that he suffered a perforated bowel and needed immediate medical attention. Lane had been locked in solitary confinement, an area of prison that, according to research, exacerbates mental illness. He became angry with the guards after they did not give him his dinner and splashed them with an unknown substance (either water or urine). Correction officers then took Lane to a clinic examination room where there conveniently were no cameras and, according to witnesses, proceeded to beat him. Fortunately, both men survived the attacks, but these cruel confrontations are only two of 129 documented incidents in the last year where correction officers induced serious injuries on inmates (Winerip and Schwirtz, 2014). These documented reports of abuse have rarely made it to the public; correction officers are hardly ever punished and the Department of Corrections is reluctant to acknowledge the …show more content…
According to the PowerPoint, it is a utilitarian goal largely justified by its benefits. Intensive, adequately implemented programs of sufficient duration target higher risk cases (like the mentally ill) and rely on behavioral treatment methods. New York City’s new correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, admitted that the department he inherited was “deeply troubled” and promised change (Winerip and Schwirtz, 2014). He has a respectable reputation as a reformer, and transformed certain elements of the prison system, such as solitary confinement and mental health care, in Maine. Ponte has already paid particular attention to mental health at Rikers Island and other state prisons in his first few months in New York. His relations with the mayor have afforded him $32 million in the new budget for mental health programs and more correction officers (Winerip and Schwirtz, 2014). This is fantastic news! Working to rehabilitate offenders who are mentally ill will reduce crime, ultimately save tax dollars, reduce prison populations, and it is much more compassionate and humane. Unfortunately, there cannot be a change at Rikers without the correction officers’ union on board, and the president has made it very clear that he is not. The union is justifiably concerned about the safety of their correction officers,

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