Thursday, February 24, 2011

mentally ill increasing strain on US prison system

BBCNews | Treating mental illness is always a challenge, but in the US, after decades of declining funding for mental health care, the burden is increasingly falling on the prison system. The BBC was granted access to a local jail in the state of Virginia to see first-hand how staff and inmates are coping.

In Virginia Beach, a city on America's east coast, 260 of the roughly 1,400 inmates in the county jail are being treated for mental illnesses.

The local sheriff, Ken Stolle, told the BBC that most weeks, he has more inmates in his jail suffering from mental illnesses than the state's system has beds.

That leaves Mr Stolle feeling as though he's in charge of the default mental institution for the area.

"Most sheriffs that I know feel like this is a problem that needs to be addressed by the state and that we shouldn't be the provider of last resort. That's what we feel like we are right now, " he says.

"If the system fails to catch these people in a safety net, they end up in the jails."

The jail has its fair share of rowdy, unruly criminals. But it's the mentally ill inmates who Mr Stolle loses sleep over.

"Ninety percent of my assaults on deputies last year were committed by mentally ill inmates," Mr Stolle told the BBC.

"I've got a problem there in the security and the safety for my deputies."

Some inmates have thrown excrement and urine at staff, others rush the doors when they are opened, injuring staff in the process.

But Mr Stolle also worries about the harm these inmates do to themselves. The jail's small medical centre sees a shocking array of conditions. Fist tap Nana.


Will said...

I'm the inmate that was in the clip.  That place is a freaking inhuman dungeon

Will said...

Oh, thats just a pic... Google Virginia Beach jail bbc and you can see the video.  One tiny error: I wasn't put in that inhuman isolation cell AFTER "assaulting a deputy" I was put in there from Day One on the first arrest - misdemeanor - of my entire life; and my depression and anxiety  meds were abruptly ceased by the jail against all medical convention.  The withdrawal syndrome includes hallucinations and psychosis.  It was under these conditions that the deputy was "assaulted" which is incredibly overstated.  I was confused, paranoid, didn't know where I was and felt threatened.   If in Virginia Beach behave yourself.  They've never even heard of the Constitution.

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