In recognition of the fact that we cannot continue to jail individuals with mental illness, Santa Clara County, together with neighboring Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco counties and more than 420 counties nationwide, signed on to the Stepping Up Initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illness in our jails. The goal is to divert people suffering from mental illness away from the jail and into treatment.

Historically, institutionalization was the answer. Asylums were overcrowded; abuses were accepted and even became regular fodder for horror movies. The situation today is not much different. Jails, prisons and state hospitals are often the first line of treatment for people with severe mental illness. The Los Angeles County Jail has been described as the largest mental hospital in the world. Public defenders, district attorneys, judges, clinicians, and law enforcement agents have joined the Stepping Up Initiative acknowledging that a punitive model has not reduced crime or incarceration rates for people with mental illness. You cannot jail away a medical disorder.

The elderly suffering from dementia, veterans with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, adult survivors of child sexual abuse, and patients from psychiatric facilities are sitting in our jails right now as a result of behavior that stems from mental illness.

One jail therapist observes that most women he treats have been sexually abused as children. He reviews reports documenting how these women were removed from their families as children because of abuse, both sexual and physical. Their trust was broken by caregivers and exploitation was normalized. Now homeless, these women pair with predatory men for protection on the street and barter their bodies. It is a forlorn existence that leads to arrests for petty offenses like using …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Health


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