Mental Health Recovery Stories - OC87 Recovery Diaries

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ACLU’s Witold Walczak on Mental Health & Prison Reform

Our nation’s jails and prisons have replaced hospitals as the primary facility for mentally ill individuals.

This powerful sentence is from a 2014 report from the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating legal and other barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness in the U.S. It’s a heartbreaking, frustrating, and sad reality. Even more paralyzing is the fact that included in this population are men and women in prison who suffer with mental illnesses that prevent them from being able to advocate for themselves.

Here’s a good example: J.H. (a pseudonym to protect his identity) is a homeless man in his late 50s from Philadelphia who suffers from schizophrenia. He was charged with retail theft for stealing three Peppermint Pattie candies. And although a court ordered him to receive mental health treatment, J.H. spent 383 days in the Philadelphia Detention Center awaiting an opening for such treatment at Norristown State Hospital. 383 days!

This happened in spite of the fact that federal courts have found that delays of longer than seven days between a court’s commitment order and hospitalization for treatment are unconstitutional.

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