Thursday, December 03, 2009

Are They Animals?

Here's a story about a supermax facility in Illinois. Apparently efforts are being made to improve mental health services to these control unit inmates, some of whom have been in
solitary confinement for up to ten years.

They're getting a lot of service: group and individual counselling, psychiatric treatment and recreational activities. And they've had some serious behavior problems---109 of the 247 inmates are there because they committed new criminal offenses while in prison, including
stabbing correctional officers and murder.

To me the story isn't interesting because of the mental health care issues or because of the nature of the inmates----that's pretty much old stuff to me. What I always think is fascinating are the comments left by the readers. Some people think the inmates are so mentally ill
that they shouldn't be locked up in spite of their repeated violent offenses. Others call them "animals" or worse, and want them all to be killed. Stories like this reveal more about the readers, and about society in general, than about the patients I treat or the system I
work in. As long as there is this level of hysteria and extremism we as a society have trouble addressing the needs of our offenders realistically.