Our society has regressed a great deal over the last 30 years in caring for our chronically mentally ill citizens. The hospital where we visited Larry on Sundays when I was a child was a large, attractive and serene place with comfortable inside visiting areas, and for patients with outdoor privileges, there were manicured lawns with park benches. I remember watching as my mother sat with Larry under the shade of a large oak tree, speaking gently to him while holding his hand. On his good days, Larry could sit still and tell us about his therapy sessions and crafts classes and the hospital’s weekly social event. He and the other patients would try hard all week to remain orderly and follow instructions, lest they be denied attendance. Nowadays, only the very rich can hope to have their sick loved ones in such an atmosphere with psychiatric care, drug therapy, and a skilled, compassionate staff. The indigent in America who just cannot seem to stop disturbing the peace and show proper respect for the law (which many of them cannot even understand) are thrown into jail for their illegal psychosis, their criminal disability. Is there really that great a difference between the cost of imprisoning as opposed to hospitalizing those mentally ill persons whose conditions prohibit them from being able to survive unrestrained in our society?
Is hospitalization in America to continue to be a solution only for the wealthy or the dangerously insane, while many of our mentally ill citizens crowd our jails and place an unfair burden on our criminal justice system? Are families to lock their deranged loved ones away in basements and attics to prevent their being arrested for misbehaving in public? It is as though our society says, “We realize you are a paranoid schizophrenic with hallucinations and a child’s ability of reasoning, but we demand that you control yourself and act like a regular, responsible guy, or off to jail you go!” But no matter how often these “hardened criminals” are arrested for their dementia, no matter how cruelly they are treated as inmates, they yet fail to significantly modify their behavior and stay out of trouble. Why can’t they just go tuck themselves quietly away under an overpass or behind a dumpster and talk to their phantom friends and dodge laser rays from Mars? Is that too much to ask?
Please contact your congressional representative today and demand that hospitalization replace incarceration for the mentally ill people in your state. http://www.house.gov/writerep