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Guilty of Being Sick: Mentally Ill behind bars

The U.S. mental health system treats all mental illness as short-term, easy to solve problems of ‘behavior’.

Most mental health coverage in the U.S. rules out long-term hospital stays, as well as long-term psychotherapy.

For profit psychiatry took the treatment protocols for substance  abuse disorders and decided to use them for everyone, regardless of diagnosis.

I am the first to concede that practicing mindfulness makes life better in general.

But it is not the first line treatment for illnesses that rob the brain of its ability concentrate and use reason.

People sick enough to become homeless need intensive case management and long-term structured treatment facilities.

The ‘prison industry’ wants to fill that need for ‘long term’  treatment.

“Mental health problems are rampant in local jails, often because the illness was a primary factor in the offensive conduct. The cost of caring for and supervising mentally ill inmates makes them two to three times more expensive to house. Once released, they often stop taking their medications, which lands them in trouble with the law and back behind bars.” NYT FEB. 27, 2017

Mental Illness, untreated Behind Bars

Image of an American Flag behind Barbed Wire
Reprocessed Video Grab from Institutionalized-Mental Health Behind Bars by VICE News

An alarming trend has emerged giving private prison profiteers control of person’s fate for life, not just the term of a prison sentence.

The CEOs who built billion dollar empires as partners in ‘tough on crime’ policies are adapting to prison reforms by re branding themselves ‘treatment’ providers.

They see the collapse of our public mental health system as an opportunity
to expand and profit from long-term psychiatric hospitals, civil commitment centers, and ‘correctional’ treatments.

Correct Care Solutions, formerly known as GEO Care, a spin-off of GEO Group, has deep roots in the private prison industry. Although the company has shifted and changed numerous times over the last few years, CCS currently runs seven “treatment” facilities in Florida, Texas and South Carolina, including five mental health facilities and two civil commitment centers.

See more at: Incorrect Care

(c) Rob Goldstein 2017 All Rights Reserved

I do not own the image







40 thoughts on “Guilty of Being Sick: Mentally Ill behind bars

  1. Thank you for another usefull information, Rob! Unbelievable, but health systems all over the world are a very special case. They want to get money, but not pay anything. ;-( Best wishes for the weekend! Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s terrible to see needless suffering on the streets of a city as rich as San Francisco, and after almost half a century of San Franciscans still prefer to pretend that we don’t know how to create an effective community mental health system even though we had one until the mid-1980s’ It’s so sad. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.


  2. How sad to read this. Very good, the way you bring this to attention… We in NL have a highly functioning mental health system, unfortunately much less available for males, where males with mental illness are so often ending up in prisons (96 % of inmates is male).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We need to rediscover the difference between ‘legal’ and ‘moral’ in the United States.

      Free market conservatives successfully used propaganda outlets like Fox News to blur this line.

      But the distinction between ‘legal’ and ‘moral’ was made clear by the exchange between Ted Cruz and Sally Yates:

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a tragic and dark reality of the world we live in. Where profit and gains are far above humanity. Where it all feeds the elite, while we are mere puppets and guinea pigs. An excellent and thought provoking post on an issue that is ignored and suppressed by too many.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. Many of the people who are frightened by the GOP health plan don’t seem to understand that people with mental illnesses have lived this nightmare since Ronald Reagan’s first term. No other group of disabled citizens in the US are routinely sent by hospitals to the streets. The disconnect is appalling. And if the current GOP has it’s way we will see people with other chronic conditions on streets of our cities.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s such an embarrassment to the US. It’s infuriating that this has been allowed and hasn’t been attempted to be stopped, even in this day and age. We live in such selfish times it’s just tragic. Thank you for bringing awareness to this.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Neither of you should feel badly for writing a lot. I APPRECIATED what you wrote as I appreciated what Rob posted about the under served (ignored) mental health problem in prisons and jails. As long as they put mentally ill people in prison because that’s the only place they now have since everything else has been defunded, mentally ill people will get worse and die.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment is moving and insightful. Everything that everyone feared about the GOP’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act has been every day reality for people with mental illnesses since the election of Ronald Reagan. If you want an example of how lethally easy it is for people to normalize the barbaric consider that prior to the 1980’s America didn’t have a problem called Chronic Homelessness. There were people who sometimes slept on park benches, but they didn’t live there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was not for Obama Care. I was for some type of tax-payer universal healthcare because whilst not perfect by any means it did not force people into ridiculously costly health plans and benefit Big Pharma and Big Business. That said, at least something was put in place, and pre-existing was taken out, that’s a start though that’s all it was because the premiums were out of this world even for people WITH money and most people with long term mental health issues do not have any. Not every state had Medicare expansion so for someone say like myself, it meant either pay the minimum Obama Care option of $450 per month with a $10k deductable (you get NO care until you’ve paid the first 10k) or you can pay $790 a month and get a lower deductable (yay!) it’s totally unrealistic and frankly, what good is a good idea if it isn’t a good idea? I was happy for those with Medicaid I was happy for those with pre-existing but I felt the scheme was a shame. Trump et al promised an overhaul, I worried it would either terminate the good aspects or just not be enough, it was the latter, there was no big change, definitely nothing good at all so no wonder it did not pass, but let’s not forget the system is BROKEN because those of us who worked in mental health have no jobs in mental health because either you get paid $9 an hour to work or you’re told sorry you’re not part of this system or that system so you cannot work here, and for the rest of them? Well there are no mental health resources with Obama Care or without it. I just feel the bigger issue isn’t the GOP’s repeal of Obama Care because they weren’t going to repeal and leave nothing it was the fact that it should have been something different to begin with. I’ve lived in Canada I’ve lived in France, Spain, UK and America. We are falling behind because unlike nearly everyone else we don’t have some type of socialized healthcare – which means tax – not premiums. Take the business out of healthcare. But Obama didn’t. So as far as I’m concerned it’s both parties who failed us, not just the GOP. I guess me and Militant Negro will agree to disagree with you my friend because we feel that it’s bigger than the Trump Frump 😉 Not to defend him at all – just saying – the system was broken before he came along. I agree with everything else 100 percent and most of all appreciate you always being a voice for the truth and the downtrodden. One of many reasons I think you are awesome.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I respect you and The Militant Negro.

        Of course, I disagree on certain issues, but we are on the same side.

        If Obama had been my perfect president he would have pursued a
        criminal investigation into the war crimes of the Bush Administration

        It was a sign of weakness that he did not and it furthered the perception that
        both political parties are equally corrupt.

        In my ideal world progressives always untie around the leaders of progressive
        causes as ardently as regressives unite around their flawed candidates.

        Have you noticed how quickly the so-called Christian right dropped its
        religious objections to adultery and multiple marriages?

        I am not saying I want progressives to stoop to that level of brazen hypocrisy
        however, if we are going to be honest we have to take some responsibility.

        The loudest voices are the ones that are heard.

        This past week was promising.

        Progressives are uniting and communicating directly with their Democratic Representatives.

        We are letting them know that that we have their backs.

        The result is a more aggressive and less conciliatory democratic party.

        The whole point of democratic systems is that no man is perfect enough to
        deserve absolute rule over others.

        When progressives fragment and bicker with each other we end up with
        flawed healthcare system that we tout as a win because at least it is better
        than nothing.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I agree with everything you’ve said. The issue with liberals is they sometimes are armchair liberals whereas conservatives tend to vote, but this seems to be changing as they were surprised that Trump won the GOP party candidate race. I expect there is a faction of the tea party who still are all about the multiple marriage phobia but maybe society is becoming (I hope) (I vainly hope) a little less intolerant of outright hate? Then again it could as easily have been Ted Cruz as President, and that would not have been better for he hates gays so much, whereas Trump says what he says, but truthfully it’s all about the bottom line (business) for him and he isn’t a hater on a religious level the way some tea-partiers are, which is why they don’t like him. I would never have wished for Trump but I did feel the health care system issue came before him, though I knew once they got in it would not be improved, I wonder if it would have been if Hiilary had won though? I mean it seems as if everyone at that level is all about profit and they really aren’t going to change the way it’s been for so long and give us a realistic plan for the masses. I’m glad for many there is Medicaid but like I said, there are great groups of people, usually the underemployed and too sick to work a lot types, who have no way of getting any mental health care even when Obama was in power (I agree about the prosecution thing by the way totally) you are so right, about democracy and it’s sad because I’m not sure anyone has it right at the moment, the world seems to have gone mad, I think we are hoodwinked by other things (technology, social media) into thinking oh well instead of rising up, or maybe we cannot rise up, I mean many try (pipeline protestors) and nothing comes of it, we’re more powerless than ever, and as for mental health it’s the red haired step child for any society as in Canada it was AWFUL too. The funny thing is – fix mental health more you fix a lot of things but they don’t see that, they’re too busy judging aren’t they?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. All I know is that whatever twitter was Trump’s use of it has changed it’s function.

        It feels like a global Commons and everyone is there.

        Twitter is a non-stop 24-hour a day grass roots pressure campaign on Our democratic
        representatives to resist Trump and his agenda.

        If these were street actions, they’d be non-stop; I keep thinking of the phrase, The Revolution
        Will Not Be Televised.

        It’s an astonishing tool.

        I can tweet to Maxine Waters that I think the evidence suggests that Trump
        is an illegitimate President.

        She may never read my tweet but that’s not the point.

        The point is that if enough people send her the same message she will stand up
        and speak our minds.

        Because of Trump, Twitter has become an important political tool.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It’s amazing to see people unite. To see people attending town squares and using them to exercise their rights as citizens.

        Everything that is hateful about the United States remains hateful and worthy of criticism.

        But the principles that drive American Democracy at its best are worth fighting to preserve.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Agreed. Many of my non American friends have been condemning every American for Trump and that’s not right, a President does not reflect the people and generalizing rarely works.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. It’s not about Trump.

        Trump is just a man with a set of gifts and liabilities. It has more to do with the behavior we expect of an American President. Trump may be very sensitive as a Father but as President his behavior is uncouth and insulting. Then we have the problem of the suspicions regarding the nature of how he was elected.

        Americans do not agree with Trumps operating premise that the truth is what he says it is.

        Most astute Americans remember that the 2016 election was marked by a level of psychologically abusive language unlike anything we’ve seen in modern politics.

        So it’s not about Trump at all.

        It is about who he is as President, and whether he underestimated his job as the leader of a Democracy.

        Thus far, his behavior is not consistent with who we are as a people.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. True. Though all the candidates were flawed which may have been one reason for his success, the other being a back lash racism, though not all who voted for him are racist. Trumps behavior has been very unpresidential and he does choose truth. The whole political system needs an over haul Sanders was right there. I dislike how we’re all judges under umbrellas but we are, so whomever stands in office is our representative and if they mock truth it shames us all. Sigh. But i see hope too. I hope it won’t be one series of backlashes followed by another.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I’m convinced after yesterday’s Senate Hearings that the entire election was tainted by dirty tricks, GOP collusion and direct tampering with media and voting machines in swing states. The government we have now, including Congress, is the result of an act of war against the American people.

        I know how extreme that sounds, but imagine ‘Active Measures’ as a nuclear strike on Washington.

        The devastation is worse because we can’t see it physically.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I’m with you on that. Awful to think in this day and age TAINT can be so obvious and yet IMMUNE to true justice. Was thinking of what matters most, justice or mercy? As that is a question often asked in the MMPI I can never answer it, as I think we need necessarily BOTH – mercy is emotive and basically what makes us decent, we cannot just have justice without mercy but we cannot have mercy without justice. I contemplate this knowing so often we have NEITHER because as you say, the Gov can be an act of war on the people and obviate any of our opinions or needs. One could say this was our fault (the voter) but it goes further doesn’t it? It is the system controlling the outcome, it would happen with or without us I suspect but despite this we must fight as you said earlier, grass roots DOES have a voice. You’re right, the devestation is always worse when hidden below the surface. It doesn’t sound so extreme which is the frightening part!

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Russia has developed a sophisticated approach to warfare. The best outcome is a bloodless conquest in which the people are willing participants.

        While the U.S. is beefing up its bombs our personal computers are being used by Putin’s troll army to destroy our ability to use reason while
        convincing us that our own government is the enemy.

        Is our government is perfect? No.

        But you’d have to be insane to think that Russia’s is better.

        Insane or the recipient of a precisely targeted pack of lies.



  5. Robert, this is a wonderful piece, as usual. I have been struggling with something for almost two years now.
    So many deserving people are out there, on the streets, castaways because they can’t find or afford the proper help.
    I have been witness to abuse of the system. In some states, if you know how to “drop the right phrase” you can get all the free mental health and medication you desire. You can even get free housing.
    When I say “drop the right phrase,” I mean this particular person is a drug addict who has never held a job and has no intentions of getting clean. All they’re interested in getting is their regular dose of Methadone, free psychiatric visits and free housing. They even collect social security, as I said, after never having had a job.
    This, to me, is robbing a well deserving person of help.
    I do understand that drug addiction is an illness. I have an alcoholic son, who can’t get anything free. But when you abuse the system by fabricating an “incident”…THAT IS WRONG.
    If I dropped a certain phrase to the right people, I imagine I could get my son all the free antabuse he could ever want.
    I’m just ranting. I hate seeing these people on the street, including my son and knowing somebody is living free, in a large house and high on the free medication because they know how to milk the system.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your comment gives an example of a situation I had considered adding to
      the post but didn’t.

      When the public mental health ‘integrated’ mental health with ‘Substance Abuse ‘
      the folks with mental illnesses got dropped.

      People with substance abuse disorders can turn their lives around by thinking
      positively, living mindfully, using social supports, and NOT taking alcohol and drugs.

      People with DID or Chronic Schizophrenia cannot 12 step their way to recovery.

      No amount of the CBT and DBT will help someone whose headed for a psychotic break
      because his voices told him to stop his meds.

      One of the biggest con jobs of the 20th Century was the decision to cut mental health
      funding while vigorously protecting the right of the mentally ill to refuse treatment.

      The result is that it is easier for people with substance abuse disorders to get treatment
      and supports.


      1. I have never found it easy to get help for my son but I also know that it is he who ultimately must want the help.
        The person I was talking about is claiming PTSD and that is nothing to be taken lightly. I am sure I have been suffering with PTSD for many, many years…but as I said, dropping the right phrase can get you anything you want. This person absolutely ruined another persons’ reputation with false accusations and has now tarnished them for life. This behavior is NOT mental illness. It is entitlement and abuse of the system.
        Can you get free psychiatric help? Do you think for a minute that I could? Yet, if we were willing to milk the system, I’d bet we could.
        I’m with you. Addicts make a choice of whether or not to continue their addictions and believe me, I have to remind myself every single day that my son has a choice. Is he mentally ill? I don’t know but I do know that he was and is desperate for the love and attention of a father who was never interested in anything but himself and his tramps. Still, my son chooses to drink to “ease his pain.” That is a choice.
        Sometimes, one voice is enough to start a rebellion but I don’t think we’re going to win on this one. I guess it’s not fashionable for the government higher-ups to care about the mentally ill.. or the homeless….or the elderly. Hell, what could we possibly do for them?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Addiction is a ravaging illness.

        It’s easy to confuse substance abuse as a symptom with substance abuse as a primary diagnosis.

        I wonder if your Son is depressed.

        As for whatever those who have too much may think of we who have too little, I don’t give a fuck about what they think.

        I’m a citizen of the United States.

        I don’t have to justify my right to exist to anyone.

        Never have. Never will.



      3. My son is absolutely depressed… and has been since he was a child. this child got shingles when he was 12, which is unheard of. Our doctor told me he though my son had to be depressed or “grappling” with something. He was. He wanted the attention and affection of what he would later call a “cruel and distant” father.
        And I’m with you. I don’t give a fuck about what those who have too much think either…but I think the operative word here is “think.” I don’t think they “think.” They don’t have to…they can pay somebody else to do it for them. They also have the resources to not have to ever “think” or act on what we struggle with every single day.
        I may question my existence but like you, I don’t have to justify it to anybody.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have had 5 appointments with a therapist and paid what we thought was my copay of $65. Today I went in and along with my copay I paid $480 because they said I had not met my deductible of $750. Now, we pay $600 a month for insurance. I don’t work because of my muscle disease and based on my current anxiety and PTSD I couldn’t work anyway so we are living on one salary. It is all a joke. No one can afford proper mental health care. I am lower, mentally and emotionally than I have ever been and I am seeing a therapist one time a week, paying money I cannot afford and this is only the beginning. My mental health will not get better overnight. After a childhood /teenage years of abuse that doesn’t just get undone. I have no idea how long it will take to get out of this current pit of despair i am in depression wise. Oh gosh. I’m sorry to have gone on and on on your blog post. It just really struck a nerve reading it and feeling the way I do and feeling like along the way I just didn’t get the help I needed becasue who the heck has that kind of money. So I finally went in after I snowballed. PTSD doesn’t just go away either.

    Liked by 4 people

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