"We're still warehousing them. We're just hiding them better ..."
"We might have closed down those state asylum warehouses but we haven’t solved their patients’ problems. We’re still warehousing them. We’re just hiding them better so we don’t have to deal with them." - Pete Earley
When former Washington Post author Pete Earley was doing research for his new book Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness, he turned to Miami as an example of the problems the country is facing because of criminalization of those with mental illnesses.
Some statistics from his book ...
- Number of mentally-ill prisoners booked into Miami jails accused of felonies: 3,000 (they often spend months waiting for their cases to be resolved)
- Amount of time it took for the chief psychiatrist at the Miami Dade jail to complete his rounds of the 92 most dangerous and unpredictable mentally ill inmates in the jail’s “primary psychiatric unit”: 19½ minutes (an average of 12.7 seconds per inmate)
"Miami has a higher percentage of mentally ill residents than any other city in the country .... It has a jail system—the fourth largest in the U.S.—that is generally outdated and dangerous to begin with. The 9th floor of the county jail is just about as barbaric as any facility around today. Miami also served as the perfect example of the nationwide tragedy that ensued when state mental institutions were shut down and their patients forced out into the community. When that happened we all acted like the problem was solved. After all, these asylums were horrid places straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In Miami these patients were splintered into 647 boarding homes—with perhaps 20 to 30 mentally ill people per home. Approximately 400 of these have failed to pass the state’s minimum safety and health standards. Two thirds of them are in abysmal shape. But the state continues to let them operate because there’s nowhere else to put the mentally ill. We might have closed down those state asylum warehouses but we haven’t solved their patients’ problems. We’re still warehousing them. We’re just hiding them better so we don’t have to deal with them."
The Treatment Advocacy Center highly recommends this well-researched, thoughtful book, both as a chronicle of one father's struggle to get help for his son from a system seemingly built to bar it, and as an investigative look at what happens in our jails and prisons to people so lost to symptoms of mental illnesses. Earley's passion for reform and compassion for people like his son who desperately need and deserve treatment is a refreshing perspective on one of America's biggest failures - the abysmal way we treat people who are too ill to help themselves.