Comments about ‘Study calls prisons, jails America's 'new asylums'’

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Published: Thursday, April 10 2014 7:35 p.m. MDT

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Gilbert, AZ

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.

Farmington, UT

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.

Merritt Island, Fl

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.

Salt Lake City, UT

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."

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

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?

Taylorsville, UT

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

Sandy, UT


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.

one old man
Ogden, UT

rwl, thank you for a sensible and compassionate post.

Saint Louis, MO

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.

cincinnati, OH

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...

Angleton, TX

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.

Kings Court
Alpine, UT

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.

cincinnati, OH

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.

New to Utah

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.

One opinion
west jordan, UT

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?

Salt Lake City, UT

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.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


"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.

West Jordan, UT

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.

Mighty Mouse
Salt Lake City, Utah

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.


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.

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