Sunday, December 26

Thoughts on Criminality and Mental Illness

I watched the most bizarre television program on the documentary channel today. It was about last meals requested by inmates about to be executed. By the way, did you know the cause of death written on the death certificate by the coroner is homicide? State sanctioned homicide. As the inmate that prepares the last meal requests stated, if you lived in Texas, (the state the inmate is imprisoned in) the state is executing these prisoners in your name. Think about that.

Anyone paying attention to death penalty issues is aware the Texas is the number 1 state for executions, including executions of those who are mentally ill. An example given was a mentally ill prisoner in Mississippi who left part of his pie and ice cream, his request for his last meal. When asked by a guard if he was going to eat his ice cream he replied "I'll save it for tomorrow". This man did not understand he would be killed in two hours, not be around for his ice cream tomorrow. How could he have been found competent to stand trial, then given the death penalty?

As the mother of an incompetent child this scares me. There must be another way for criminally insane people to be confined for the safety of the public. I have worked in a maximum security women's prison as a therapist. I have seen those on death row, or "X" building Dixon, Illinois. I have walked by the mental hospital on prison grounds and witnessed the sounds and looks out barred windows from desperate women. Labeled mentally ill but too dangerous to be set free.

I toured a maximum security men's prison as part of required training, but I don't have first-hand experience or observations to share regarding mental illness treatment of confined men. Anecdotally I have heard that spiritual counselors play a large role in these prinsons.

We must reform treatment and care for those who have psychotic breaks and commit serious crimes.

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