Study calls prisons, jails America's 'new asylums'


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  • mrjj69 bountiful, UT
    April 12, 2014 11:35 a.m.

    i worked for utah state prison for 20 years. this article is no exaggeration corrections and it's officers are not equipped to handle the number of mentally ill inmates..

  • Gary Federal Way, WA
    April 11, 2014 4:14 p.m.

    That's what happens with deregulation and the enacting of private prisons. It's gotten worst since doing these two things. The mentally ill do not belong in prisons. They won't get the help they need and they put the other population in danger by just being there. Can you guess who started the deregulation's epic and the changing from public to private?

  • NeilT Clearfield, UT
    April 11, 2014 2:20 p.m.

    Some reasonable posts on here. I was expecting the typical right wings response such as they are just faking mental Illness so they can have a free place to stay. Mental illness is a huge problem in our society. Unfortunately we tend to ignore the plight of those who are the most vulnerable. I drive a UTA bus. I deal with the mentally ill every day. Many need to be in a care facility where they can receive proper care. Caring for the homeless and mentally ill should not be a political issue. Unfortunately that is exactly what it is.

  • Vince Ballard South Ogden, UT
    April 11, 2014 1:17 p.m.

    Sorry, "Itsjstmeagain", Reagan didn't do this, it started in the 1950's with the development of anti-psychotic medications. Then, groups like the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill lobbied for a "turn them all loose" policy on grounds that the mentally ill needed their civil liberties, come what may, and also told the politicians that this way would save money. Of course, that got the politicians attention, and so the laws and institutions which handled this problem have vanished. Many tragedies have resulted. Some folks need outpatient supervision or, in severe cases, confinement in some sort of facility. In reading the replies to this article, many people have reported tragedies and travesties similar to the many I could name if there was space brought on by this sort of activism. It is time for N.A.M.I.to admit past mistakes and realize than it is unmerciful to both the mentally ill and their families to pursue the current course.

  • Robert F. Smith Provo, UT
    April 11, 2014 12:55 p.m.

    The true issue here is financial, even though state legislators seem unaware of that fact. It simply costs far more to incarcerate a mentally ill person in a jail or prison than in a psychiatric facility. Quite aside from the damage done to that mentally ill person. Half of the homeless are mentally ill, and half of all crime is committed by mentally ill persons trying to fund self-medication -- with the wrong sort of drugs. Back in the quiet 1950s we housed such people in large psychiatric facilities. We later closed them down nationwide, claiming (falsely) that this was compassionate and would save us money. It did neither. We have fobbed the mentally ill off on the very expensive law enforcement and prison systems. We have been penny-wise and pound foolish, and our chickens have come home to roost. We have learned nothing, while we are now the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. Congrats.

  • bullet56 Olympia, WA
    April 11, 2014 12:35 p.m.

    As a society, our approach to dealing with fellow citizens with mental issues, is penny wise and pound foolish. It seems to be a "Liberal" cause to help the homeless and mentally ill before they end up doing something that causes criminal complaint. It seems a very "conservative" decision to give them help only after they end up committing a crime or endangering the public. When we have one political party calling for tax dollars to fund outreach and mental help centers, and the other political group calling for lower taxes, reduced government help for the homeless and mentally ill, and more prisons, then we get what we have now. We treat the less fortunate this way, because of some political choices.

  • cavetroll SANDY, UT
    April 11, 2014 11:50 a.m.

    The problem here isn't the prisons or jails. The problem is that we as a society refuse to treat the mentally ill until it's too late and they are sentenced to incarceration. Society turns a blind eye to the mentally ill unless a crime has been committed. by then, it may be too late for both the mentally ill and the rest of society.

  • Mighty Mouse Salt Lake City, Utah
    April 11, 2014 11:31 a.m.

    If you aren't familiar with the shameful Utah Mental Health system let me help. It starts with a Legislature that makes Scrooge look generous. It trickles down to government mental health bureaucrats willing to turn their backs on the needs of the seriously mentally ill to keep the Legislature happy. To see the fruits of our system, drive by the shelter on a cold day and watch the homeless line up to get on the list for a bed. If you have a spark of love and compassion in your heart the long lines full of eyes empty of hope will haunt you. These are our brothers and sisters that we through our representatives vote to ignore. For those with a family member with a serious mental illness, being incarcerated is a Godsend. At least he or she is not out trying to survive on the street. The only value of mental health court is that it forces bureaucrats to pay attention to the seriously mentally ill they would otherwise ignore. If you think this description harsh, you probably don't have a mentally ill family member. But, hey, our Legislature is saving us all a couple of bucks.

  • Shawnm750 West Jordan, UT
    April 11, 2014 10:44 a.m.

    This underscores what Gov. Herbert has been saying about reevaluating our corrections program here in the state. That's why I'm not an advocate of simply tearing down the facility in Draper and building a larger one somewhere else in the middle of nowhere. We need facilities that can treat those whose crimes are motivated by (or in part by) mental disorders so they aren't perpetual burdens on our prison system. Likewise, we need to focus on rehabilitation for those offenders who truly wish (and are capable of) rejoining society. Bigger facilities with better security are not the answer.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    April 11, 2014 10:34 a.m.


    "Once determined there is no hope, just keep them medicated ans (sic) throw away the key".

    Are you serious? Is that how you would recommend treating your child or grandchild with mental illness? Toss them in and throw away the key with an annual assessment by a counselor? Would you consider that humane? Charitable?

    It was that sort of thing that led to de-institutionalization in the first place. Patients won in court (in part) because they were being warehoused not treated.

  • JimInSLC Salt Lake City, UT
    April 11, 2014 10:25 a.m.

    Privatized prisons are guaranteed an occupancy of something like 90%. We can fill the cells with the mentally ill or start imprisoning jaywalkers to meet quota. In New Mexico the police shoot the mentally ill.

  • One opinion west jordan, UT
    April 11, 2014 10:24 a.m.

    It seems that when a person who is considered mentally ill or a threat to society commits a vicious crime, prison is a wise place to put them. A separate wing may be advisable for these people so they could get the treatment they need. If professional people feel they can help them overcome the violent crimes committed by them, then they need to have a place where they can be separated from other people who also have mental illnesses who have committed crimes of a non-violent nature. Violence from someone who is mentally ill should never be acceptable to those who are not violent. Staff needs some kind of protection from mentally ill violent offenders also. Do we consider the every day care takers of these people? Do they stand in harms way when caring for those with mental illness who have violent tendencies if no lock down cell is available?

  • New to Utah PAYSON, UT
    April 11, 2014 10:21 a.m.

    The recent decision to move the prison from its convenient location shows how little Utah's moneyed politically elite care about the families who struggle with children,sons, daughters who have mental,drug or other disorders that contribute to their incarceration. Utah barely provided the basics, no college opportunity, poor food,many lockdowns but little incentive to reduce recivitism. Parents often are forced into serious financial crisis because of children with substance abuse issues. Utah demonstrated that with political power and determination to use land for developers interest they don't care much about prisoners or their families.

  • 100%TruePAtriot cincinnati, OH
    April 11, 2014 9:51 a.m.

    But psychiatric institutions are expensive to run.
    They don't have to be.

    Once determined there is no hope, just keep them medicated ans throw away the key,
    Annual analysis would be all that is needed thereafter and only by a counselor.

    Therapists are much cheaper than doctors.

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    April 11, 2014 9:09 a.m.

    This isn't new. Previous studies decades ago came to the same conclusion. It is America's dirty little secret that comes out from time to time, but nothing ever changes.

  • Bruce Angleton, TX
    April 11, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    I have a brother that is schizophrenic. He has never stolen or committed any violent crime, yet he has spent the majority of his adult life (51 years old) incarcerated. Like many others with mental illness he self medicates with alcohol because he doesn't have insurance and cannot get expensive anti-psychotic medication. His main offense has been public intoxication. Because he hears voices and is delusional he is segregated while incarcerated compounding his illness. We as a society should be ashamed for how we treat the mentally ill. It is time to provide adequate mental health funding in order to provide treatment and relief for these poor and unfortunate souls.

  • 100%TruePAtriot cincinnati, OH
    April 11, 2014 8:43 a.m.

    Since the statement was made that "the majority of them {mentally ill} are harmless, then why does everyone want to revoke their gun rights?

    I agree that the most dangerous one's should be kept indefinitely but those who have a temporary treatable condition should never lose their gun rights. Or any other rights for that matter.

    I wonder which is cheaper. Prisons or asylums?

    And why aren't the most dangerous given shock therapy to target the violence centers of the brain?
    Seems not enough money in it for them...

  • JBQ Saint Louis, MO
    April 11, 2014 8:43 a.m.

    Any discussion of treatment of the mentally ill must start with Dorothea Dix. She was an advocate of the mentally ill and then served as superintendent of nurses during the Civil War. At Gettysburg, the South left 5000 wounded behind who were treated compassionately. After the war, her efforts led to the building of insane assylums. She died in 1887. In WWII, a troop transport served with her name. Here in St. Louis, there is a large building on "Arsenal" which was used to treat the mentally ill. There are underground passages which connecting to the old city hospital. Both were shut down by the state to save money. The ill were put on the streets. Their only recourse is to go to prison for help. This was basically a capitalist initiative. Nevertheless, just what is mental illness? Religious organizations such as the Salvation Army do the best work but are not welcomed with open arms by a less than compassionate society. AA has one admit that there is a "higher power". The "age of Dix" was one of moral standards. The mood today is away from such in an atheist age.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    April 11, 2014 8:10 a.m.

    rwl, thank you for a sensible and compassionate post.

  • rw123 Sandy, UT
    April 11, 2014 7:53 a.m.


    I'm guessing that the hardest part to being in prison (whether you have the "luxuries" or not) is being cooped up with your fellow prisoners. I doubt they are kind to the mentally ill.

    And I believe the study has enough merit to justify examining the issue. If the individual is a criminal, then prison. If mentally ill, then treatment.. If criminally insane, then both.

    Our hearts should go out to those who are only mentally ill who end up in prison. I think the mentally ill suffer in a way we cannot understand and sometimes to a depth we cannot comprehend while still keeping the law. For them, I doubt a large TV makes much difference.

  • AGF Taylorsville, UT
    April 11, 2014 7:49 a.m.

    An immediate problem easily addressed is the isolation of the severely ill. The system makes it as difficult as possible to visit inmates, and its policies make no distinction between the dangerous and calculating, and those who are beyond planning for dinner, much less escaping. --AGF

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    April 11, 2014 7:16 a.m.

    We de-institutionalized the mentally ill. For the least ill or those for whom mediation was the answer, that is fine. For those who simply cannot make it on their own, this is the somewhat inevitable result. But psychiatric institutions are expensive to run. What are our priorities as a society?

  • Dante Salt Lake City, UT
    April 11, 2014 6:59 a.m.

    Another liberal public advocacy group fomenting "outrage." Substitute "seriously mentally ill" in the article with "dangerously mentally ill." Sociopaths without affect but crazy enough to kill or rape you without hesitation or guilt are indeed mentally ill. They need to be locked away to allow society to function. Medications have improved, but not enough to protect society from these individuals. Very few wind up in prison for first-time offenses. Many cycle through the prison system because, even if their mental illnesses can be controlled through medications, and even if the medications are provided free, they choose to lapse in taking their meds. Most mentally ill dangerous criminals need intense structure in their lives. If they won't avail themselves of other controls, society will provide structure through the prison system. I'm weary of those who try to paint perpetrators as "victims."

  • Itsjstmeagain Merritt Island, Fl
    April 11, 2014 6:03 a.m.

    It's curious how the English language works. Asylum meant a place you went to regain freedom from an oppressive master. Now it is a place to lose that freedom because the great experiment of Reagan to "mainline" the mentally sick failed. The policy created then was to close all of the facilities, give them some drugs and put them back on the street.
    Just when did we lose compassion and the teachings of Christ? When we became aware of individual wealth and the stock market.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    April 11, 2014 12:04 a.m.

    I saw the old pioneer jail at Lagoon a short time ago. It was concrete with metal bars, no plumbing or heating, built over a century ago.

    Compare that with today's big screen TV's, three meals a day, warm cot, medical care, work release programs, volunteers serving inmates spiritual needs, access to a huge library (particularly the law section where they can invent some reason to sue) etc. And there's a side benefit: Free crime school from talking with fellow inmates.

    Yes, they have pretty poor conditions these days compared with former prisoners.

  • LovelyDeseret Gilbert, AZ
    April 10, 2014 11:37 p.m.

    I detest studies like this. They make the problem the prisons instead of the the over abundance of mentally ill people.
    I would like to know why there is such a huge flux of mentally ill in America. That is the greatest tragedy.