Thursday, August 01, 2013

The costly criminalisation of the mentally ill

Justice

Locked in 

The costly criminalisation of the mentally ill 

Aug 3rd 2013 | COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS | From the print edition

SINCE 1994 Tracey Aldridge has been arrested 100 times, jailed 27 times for more than 1,000 days and spent a total of eight years in prison. Most of her arrests have been for trivia: trespassing, prostitution, drugs, disorderly conduct, petty theft or drinking in public, all typical of the mentally ill. Ms Aldridge is so impaired that one jail needed special arm coverings for her, like full-length oven gloves, to prevent her from ripping her veins out with her teeth. More recently, in prison, Ms Aldridge ate her protective gauntlets.

Thomas Dart, the sheriff of Cook County jail, knows Ms Aldridge will end up back in his cells soon because there is nowhere else for her to go. She is sentenced, like so many seriously mentally ill people in America, to rotate in and out of correctional facilities until she dies. Prisons and jails are the main mental-health facilities in the country, something Sheriff Dart describes as an “abomination”. He is also angry about how fiscally reckless it is. At only 42, Ms Aldridge has already cost taxpayers $719,436 for her arrests and incarcerations. [More...]