The Released

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The Released: What happens after the
mentally ill are released from prison.

Mental illness has been around since the beginning of time. Back in the 1940s or '50s, a man with schizophrenia would have been locked away in an isolated state mental hospital. In the 1960s or '70s, following the widespread deinstitutionalization of people with mental illness, he likely would have been released. Now the future for people with mental illness could be very different. The most likely place a person with a mental illness, who has no other resources, will end up is prison. Most people with a severe mental illness cannot control themselves or their emotions; because they cannot control themselves it leads the individuals to out lash and unintentionally break the law. Once released the mentally ill inmates are given a certain amount of medication and simply let off into the “real world”. Because they have no other place to go the mentally ill either end up back in prison or homeless on the streets.

The Released
America’s prisons have become a dumping ground for the mentally ill because non-prison treatment facilities are unavailable or unaffordable. PBS Frontlines documentary, The New Asylum, “goes deep inside Ohio’s state prison system to explore the complex and growing issue of mentally ill prisoners. With unprecedented access to prison therapy sessions, mental health treatment meetings, crisis wards, and prison disciplinary tribunals…” Five years later in 2005 film makers Karen O’Connor and Miri Navasky went back to the Ohio state prison to make a documentary, The Released, that uncovers what happens to the mentally ill when they are released. The Released shows that even though the mentally ill are being treated in the prisons, because they have no stable environment to go to and no way to take care of themselves, once released the inmates soon end up back in prison or homeless. As of 1996 approximately 20-25% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness (“Homeless & Hunger statistics & facts”). In 1998 alone there were 283,800 mentally ill people incarcerated in prisons; because prisons are housing so many mentally ill people each year the prisons are getting crowded (Ditton, 2005, para 1). Crowded prisons result to prisons turning away prisoners, or releasing prisoners before their parole date. To put an end to this the United States needs to find a way to help these mentally ill people with their disease in a healthy way rather than sticking them in the prisons where their condition is likely to worsen. In the 1960s the deinstitutionalization movement surfaced. The deinstitutionalization movement was a movement to get all of the mentally ill people out of big institutions. The goal was to get the mentally ill patients reintegrated into towns and neighborhoods where they would get services and shelter. The plan of the deinstitutionalization movement was to have the community’s support the discharged patients, build community outreach support centers, and eventually have mental health services. Today’s reality falls far short of the vision that our nation had four decades ago, according to the National Public Radio news, several studies have shown the idea can work, and thousands of Americans with a mental illness have benefited; but thousands more have failed to get adequate follow-up, treatment and assistance (Karaim, 2002, para 7). Andrew Sperling, A legislative director for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, states “People with mental illness leave acute or chronic care facilities without adequate provisions for their housing or support, and end up sliding into homeless shelters or the criminal justice system” (Karaim, 2002, para1). As communities across the country face the largest loss of prisoners in history, the issue has never been more critical. According to PBS Frontline’s documentary “The Released” in...
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