Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Crimes and misdemeanors

The vast majority of jail inmates with serious brain disorders who do have charges against them have been arrested for misdemeanors such as trespassing.

Some have been arrested for misdemeanors many times over. Like Gloria Rodgers of Memphis, who in 1998 was reported to have had 258 previous arrests and to have been jailed 114 times in the previous four years.

One study found the four most common offenses perpetrated by the mentally ill were assault/battery, theft, disorderly conduct, and drug- and alcohol-related crimes.[1] One young man smashed a store window “because he saw a dinosaur jumping out at him,” and a young woman refused to pay for her meal in a restaurant because she claimed to be “the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.”[2]

Sometimes, a misdemeanor arrest can quickly land someone in jail on a far more serious charge ... all because of lack of treatment.

[1] National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Criminalizing the seriously mentally ill: The abuse of jails as mental hospitals (1992).
[2] Gary E. Whitmer, From Hospitals to Jails: The Fate of California’s Deinstutionalized Mentally Ill, 50 Amer. J. Orthopsychiatry 65, 66 (1980), and Edwin V. Valdiserri et al., A Study of Offenses Committed by Psychotic Inmates in a County Jail, 37 Hosp. Community Psychiatry 163, 165 (1986).

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