People stricken with severe brain illnesses do not belong in  jails. Disability Rights as usual missing the big picture –  blaming the jails for not providing appropriate medical treatment instead of advocating for sustained care  they need so they  are not arrested for  crimes due to  symptoms of their illness. 


KQED’s Lisa Pickoff-White and Julie Small recently reported that conditions the DRC report found in Sonoma County’s main jail are a reflection of what mental health experts say is a disturbing reality nationwide: After decades spent “deinstitutionalizing” the mentally ill — removing them from settings like state hospitals in favor of community mental health facilities that have rarely been adequately funded — correctional facilities are now de facto treatment centers for those suffering from acute psychiatric disorders.

A 2010 study found that in California, nearly four times as many mentally ill people were in jails and prisons than in hospitals.

The report, produced by the National Sheriffs’ Association and Treatment Advocacy Center, said that “in historical perspective, we have returned to the early 19th century, when mentally ill persons filled our jails and prisons.”

Experts say conditions like those in Sonoma County show jails are simply the wrong place to treat the mentally ill.

KQED reports:

Two Deaths In One Jail In One Month: How Are We Treating Mentally Ill Inmates?

Read the DRC report:



  1. Disability Rights is missing the big picture here. Why are those with severe mental illness ending up in jail instead of in therapeutic settings where medication and therapy could be more competently managed than in a correctional institution? Its not surprising that Disability Rights focuses on the issue of overmedication instead, since they share responsibility for the deplorable incarceration of the mentally ill. The lawyers at Disability Rights file lawsuits to thwart programs that would provide timely medical interventions to those experiencing psychiatric crisis, virtually guaranteeing that they will end up in our jails and prisons. They oppose mandated treatment in the name of civil liberties, despite the fact that far too often the result of withheld treatment is the loss of all liberty. Those with untreated schizophrenia, bipolar, and other psychotic disorders, while in the grip of paranoia or delusional thinking, are often unable to self direct their own care. When they refuse voluntary treatment and are left to deteriorate until they reach crisis, there are no beds in psychiatric hospitals where they can receive appropriate medical care. Doctors routinely tell family members to try to have their family members arrested because that is the only way they might get some treatment. When Prop 63 was passed, DR sued the state to prevent any of the revenue to be used for Laura’s Law, which creates outpatient programs to provide treatment in the community for those who are badly deteriorating and refusing voluntary treatment. Having an illness is not a crime. Leaving those with disabilities to sicken on the streets with police rather than doctors to respond to their crises is the real crime.


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