I really enjoy reading the blog Kellevision.com. She says it like it is and seldom misses the point of what she’s writing about. She identifies a problem in programming for homelessness and proposes a set of concepts to help clarify the situation. Image via Wikipedia “Many of the “barriers” faced by the chronically homeless are not external. They are self-inflicted. Repeatedly failing to pay one’s utility bills is not a barrier.
We spend billions on imprisoning the largest proportion of our population than any other nation. Too many of those imprisoned are petty drug offenders. In prison, they some learn how to be more effective criminals and then are turned loose to re-offend. Too many are very young. Petty drug offenders often need CD treatment, not prison. Many are simply supporting the habit that keeps them from a more productive life. However, petty criminals can become hardened career criminals just from the experience of prison.
Image via Wikipedia With 75% of all prisoners in state and federal prisons showing significant symptoms of mental illness, it’s not surprising that youths are not immune. The sad part is that the younger the prisoner, the more damaging will be the experience of prison, the more likely they will re-offend on release, and the more likely they’ll be back in prison. At least some states are beginning to emphasize rehabilitation rather than the self-defeating plan to punish the guilty.
Alfred Blumstein, the winner of the Stockholm Prize in Criminology published a paper titled “An O.R. Missionary’s Visits to the Criminal Justice System”. It appears in the February issue of Operations Research, the flagship journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®). He challenges the very political and ideological foundations of our correctional system. I’ve previously written about the self-defeating nature of our corrections policies. Rehabilitation has been little more than a symbolic effort rather than the central tenant of corrections.
There is news today of a new study about mental health problems in prison and jails. The information shows a much bigger problem than previously reported. MSNBC.com More than half of America’s prison and jail inmates have symptoms of a mental health problem, the Justice Department estimated Wednesday. But fewer than one-third of those with problems are getting treatment behind bars. The study by the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics also found the incidence of symptoms much higher among women than men.
Prior to about 1960, mental ill individuals were warehoused in state funded hospitals which provided structure and asylum for people who created at least a nuisance for the community and a hardship for families and others feared. Periodic expose’s about the deplorable conditions in these settings and the development of modern psychotropic medications lead to realistic alternatives in the community. Deinstitutionalization like all great policy ideas, began as a noble mission, and gradually was distorted into a means to save tax dollars.
The US has one of the highest rates of incarceration of any country in the world. At year end 2002, 1,440,655 prisoners were under the jurisdiction of State or Federal correctional authorities. Four years later, that number is estimated at 1.8 million. In 2001, about 592,000 State prison inmates were released to the community after serving time in prison. (DOJ). Of the more than half a million offenders released every year, nearly 70% of them return to prison within three years.