Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Less Prison, More Mental Health

The following is a "Letter to the Editor" at the Daily Oklahoman in response to a September 18, 2007 article entitled: "Ex-OSU Cager to Spend Time Behind Bars" Link:

In reference to 09/18/07's headline: “Ex-OSU Cager to Spend Time Behind Bars” and to all others who suffer mental illness and have been sentenced to incarceration, one has to ask: “What purpose is served?”

If we, as a state, chose to spend the money in the mental health system that we instead allocate to prisons, wouldn't the individual's and the public's interest be better served? I don't know the statistics for successful treatment of the conditions Houston, or others like him, suffer. But I do know the statistics for recidivism (re-arrest): 80+% of those who have once been in prison return to the system.

What savvy investor would put the kind of money the public does each year into such an endeavor, where the potential of a positive return is less than 20%? Our investment in the current system of justice makes no sense in terms of dollars and cents, let alone in the cost of human beings.

Mental illness is often misunderstood by the general public; things we don't understand often cause us to be frightened. But looking the other way when non-violent mentally ill people are locked up isn't the answer to the problem—not for them, and not for society.

1 comment:

  1. Mental illness should be addressed a little differently than incarceration. If we incarcerate those who are really mentally ill, I am not so sure that we are serving them or anyone else justice. They may sit for a while within a prison or jail but how is this helping to address the real problem at hand?