Insane America's criminal treatment of mental illness

Alisa Roth

Book - 2018

An expose of the mental-health crisis in America's courts and prisons reveals that nearly half of the nation's inmates are actually afflicted by a psychiatric problem, examines how inmates are denied treatment, and suggests a more humane approach.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Basic Books 2018.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
vi, 312 pages ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 285-304) and index.
ISBN
9780465094196
0465094198
Main Author
Alisa Roth (author)
  • Part I. Ensnared: how we got here
  • Jail is the only safe place
  • The largest psych ward in America
  • The asylum fallacy
  • Part II. Locked up: what happens inside
  • Jail as hospital
  • Destined to fail
  • Sanctioned torture
  • Better off dead
  • Guilty by reason of insanity
  • Part III. Breaking free: toward a better way
  • Inside out
  • The cycle
  • Shooting the victim
  • The good-cop solution
  • Disorder in the court.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

As reported here by veteran journalist Roth, mental illness affects more than half of the inmates in U.S. prisons, and mass incarceration has aggravated the problem. As a result, correctional facilities have become mental health providers by default, exhibiting many of the poor conditions and abusive aspects of mental asylums of the past. Roth mines an impressive array of interviews, case studies, official records, research, and statistics to support this view. The book is organized around the process of criminalization. Initial chapters discuss how and why the mentally ill are easily drawn into the criminal justice system, including a history of U.S. mental health care. The following section evaluates how correctional facilities provide such care, concluding that failure is inevitable in a security-based, low-resource environment. Finally, the author details reasons for the revolving door that tends to pull mentally ill offenders back into the system. The work concludes with specific ideas for reform. As a broad national survey, it complements similar but more locally focused volumes such as Elizabeth Ford's Sometimes Amazing Things Happen. VERDICT Gritty and fact-filled, this passionate book will enlighten general readers about a vulnerable population in a dysfunctional justice system.—Antoinette Brinkman, formerly with Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Marketplace reporter Roth's cri de coeur uses moving anecdotes of how the American criminal justice system treats the mentally ill to make the problem palpable. Roth provides a deeply disturbing synthesis of her research, both academic and in the field, including conversations with professionals, and the mentally ill, to show how despite the increased understanding of mental illness over the last two centuries, and apart from the development of more effective medications, "we continue to treat people with mental illness almost exactly as we did before electricity was invented." In one of the more unsettling examples, a businessman and former firefighter with bipolar disorder was arrested for indecent exposure after he stripped naked in the hallway of a hotel when he was unable to open the door to his room. Later, when he turned violent, correction officers with no access to his medical records or understanding of the care he needed put him in solitary confinement. Roth proposes sound alternatives, such as San Antonio's investment in a 24/7 crisis center devoted to keeping people with mental illness "out of the criminal justice system and into effective treatment." Roth strikes a powerful balance between big picture analysis and individual stories to make this searing account of America's misguided treatment of the mentally ill hard to ignore. (Apr.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An exposâe of the mental-health crisis in America's courts and prisons reveals that nearly half of the nation's inmates are actually afflicted by a psychiatric problem, examines how inmates are denied treatment, and suggests a more humane approach.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

An urgent exposé of the mental-health crisis in America's courts and prisons reveals that nearly half of the nation's inmates are actually afflicted by a psychiatric problem and that a high percentage of crimes are related to mental disorders, drawing on intimate stories that reveal how the criminal justice system worsens mental illness and could be improved through more humane approaches. 15,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An urgent exposéf the mental health crisis in our courts, jails, and prisons America has made mental illness a crime. Jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago each house more people with mental illnesses than any hospital. As many as half of all people in America's jails and prisons have a psychiatric disorder. One in four fatal police shootings involves a person with such disorders. In this revelatory book, journalist Alisa Roth goes deep inside the criminal justice system to show how and why it has become a warehouse where inmates are denied proper treatment, abused, and punished in ways that make them sicker. Through intimate stories of people in the system and those trying to fix it, Roth reveals the hidden forces behind this crisis and suggests how a fairer and more humane approach might look. Insane is a galvanizing wake-up call for criminal justice reformers and anyone concerned about the plight of our most vulnerable.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

An urgent exposéf the mental health crisis in our courts, jails, and prisons America has made mental illness a crime. Jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago each house more people with mental illnesses than any hospital. As many as half of all people in America's jails and prisons have a psychiatric disorder. One in four fatal police shootings involves a person with such disorders. In this revelatory book, journalist Alisa Roth goes deep inside the criminal justice system to show how and why it has become a warehouse where inmates are denied proper treatment, abused, and punished in ways that make them sicker. Through intimate stories of people in the system and those trying to fix it, Roth reveals the hidden forces behind this crisis and suggests how a fairer and more humane approach might look. Insane is a galvanizing wake-up call for criminal justice reformers and anyone concerned about the plight of our most vulnerable.