First off, if prison guards and officials don’t know enough to make sure people who need medication are able to take it, we need to correct that. That is just abject failure to be human. But we also need to understand why someone having a mental health crisis being in jail is a bad idea to begin with. We can’t expect a ton of treatment to go on in there:
““We’re not the nation’s psychologists,” he says. “We have decided that as a society let’s just warehouse the mentally ill in a jail … which is neither equipped for, trained to handle or able to be most efficient and effective at solving the problem.
“The failure here isn’t just what a deputy or an officer in a jail does or doesn’t do. The failure is that these people are being put in a criminal environment for mental illness.””
Yes, we could do better by people in jail, but we need to do better by people before they reach this point too.
Once upon a time, not that long ago, we had a system of institutions to serve people with mental health issues instead of having them in jail. Unfortunately, some of them were run very poorly, and mistreatment was rampant. There were problems. Instead of figuring out how to fix those problems, we closed them all down and promised to make outpatient treatment facilities available, and have plenty of community-based treatment options that let people get help, but remain tied to the outside world, not “locked away”.
Except, you know, not my community. The mentally ill are scary and dangerous, we can’t have them near my friends and family, maybe somewhere else.
But somewhere else turned out to be not plentiful, and not so much available, and so as people ran into problems with homelessness, addiction, etc. they wound up in prison. Where they are mistreated, beat up by other inmates and overseen by people with little mental health training.
But now that’s OK, because they are only criminals anyway.
That’s not a good look for society is it? But it’s the truth. And we are not going to find any solutions for mental health treatment or suicide prevention if that’s how we feel about people who are ill.