Thursday, June 9, 2005
Reading Advocate, MA -By sending mentally ill criminal offenders to prison instead of treating their sickness, the state is wasting money and potentially endangering those in the communities offenders return to, supporters of decriminalization bills told lawmakers Monday.
“There has to be a better way,” Toby Fisher, executive director of the National Alliance of Mentally Ill Massachusetts, told a legislative committee conducting a hearing on related bills. “We are spending too much money taking care of the mentally ill in correctional facilities. It’s an expensive form of treatment and it’s not treatment at all.”
More than a quarter of nearly 10,000 state prisoners are receiving mental health services, including more than 60 percent of the female inmate population, according to the state Department of Corrections. Nationally, there are more mental illness sufferers in the criminal justice system than there are in psychiatric hospitals, decriminalization proponents said, citing Human Rights Campaign data.