Time Has Come to Save Mentally Ill Inmates From Solitary Confinement

This piece originally appeared in the Arizona Capitol Times.

The first thing that hits you is the smell—an acrid stench that knocks you back a few paces.

When you see inside the cells, you understand. Men, often nude, are covered in filth. Their cell floors are littered with rancid milk cartons and food containers. Their stopped-up toilets overflow with waste.

These are the living conditions that prisoners with acute mental illness endure in the Maricopa County Jail’s Special Management Unit (SMU) in downtown Phoenix. In my 23 years of visiting prisons and jails nationwide, it is the single worst unit I have ever seen.

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Dr. Timothy Leary

It's a jail. Whatever you do the place will always be a complete horror show.

Ray

There is a difference between the "horror" of simply being in jail, and borderline torture. You don't get to dismiss someone's suffering because they are in jail, so what do you expect anyway?

Dr. Timothy Leary

Ray? Are you James Earl Ray?

M. Justice

The ACLU is all over the country suing states for delaying the process of getting people "treatment" so that they can get their constitutional right to a speedy trial. Competency Restoration should never be called treatment (which is for the purpose of restoring or promoting recovery from illness or well-being). Competency Services have a single-minded purpose: preparing people who are neurologically disconnected from reality to be prepared for prosecution and unjust conviction - under M'Naughten's Rule. M'Naughten's exploits widespread misunderstanding of psychosis-spectrum disorders. The Butler Cmte. 1975 in the UK 40 yrs ago essentially condemned the verbiage of M'Naughten's. (the same nation who gave us this defective definition is the one that produced the best "white paper" on the broader issues involving people with SMI and criminal justice - yet the most sensible proposals were never adopted). So what do you want ACLU? Cleaner, prettier conditions in jails and prisons for the people who should have never been convicted in the first place?

J.S.

Keep running around the country fighting for more forensic beds for "treatment" of the mentally so that they be fast-tracked to unjust conviction. Thanks ACLU - for your efforts, Pennsylvania, the weirdo state, is converting what civil beds that are left to "forensic ones". How about studying what is putting people who have little regulatory control in jail and prison. Get ahold of the Butler Report 1975 and consider what it has to say about M'Naughten's Rule.

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