For the past six years, in an effort to cut costs, the Fresno County Jail has repeatedly denied mentally ill defendants the anti-psychotic medications prescribed to them by their outside doctors—medications needed to keep them sane.
As a result, according to Fresno County judges, former nurses, correctional officers, doctors, lawyers and the families of the defendants, the jail medical staff is triggering psychotic breakdowns in people suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The Fresno County Jail
The prolonged mental breakdowns are causing some defendants to languish in isolated confinement for years at a time, they say, creating a system of mental torture at the county jail. Denied their usual medications, defendants suffer paranoid delusions and mania so debilitating that some have tried to commit suicide multiple times in jail, slashing their throats or wrists with county-issued razors.
Americans are continually plummeted with violent scenes on the evening news, but little to nothing is reported about the nation's falling crime rate. Whereas the reduction in crime is good news for the average citizen, it is not good news for prison investors or for municipalities that signed contracts with private prison companies, guaranteeing them a certain occupancy rate. Therefore, I repeat the question in paragraph 1:
Are jails and prisons kept full by withholding psychiatric drugs from acute mental patients so they will get extra time on their sentences after psychotic episodes? That appears to be happening in Fresno County Jail, according to a report by "Community Alliance - the voice of the progressive movement since 1996."
~ The members and friends of Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill strongly object to withholding psychiatric drugs to induce lunacy in order to lengthen sentences of wrongly imprisoned mental patients, who should be either in mental hospitals or community care programs.
~ We object to crime and punishment becoming an business enterprise that reduces people to commodities that are bought and sold on Wall Street.
~ We object to privatized correctional institutions and feel the quest for success of such facilities led to mass incarceration for Americans, regardless of their innocence or mental illness.
~ We submit to you that the War on Drugs is actually a war on middle-class and indigent Americans who are either recreational drug users or addicted to hard drugs.
We urge everyone who is committed to prison reform to recognize this: There were no overcrowded prisons and jails and therefore no need for private correctional facilities until the mentally ill were "de-institutionalized" and evicted from mental hospitals and community psychiatric services suffered budget cuts. Mentally ill people in America are the backbone of the private prison industry, which grosses billions per year. Crime is declining, including violent crime, which generates the longest prison sentences. With the loss of "business," the mentally ill are at greater risk than ever of suffering long prison sentences to satisfy the greed of prison investors, who include judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and lawmakers.
America's reduction in violent crime has not generated the cheers one would expect, because it could mean less money for prison owners and investors. This places targeted populations (minorities, the mentally ill, and whites who lack wealth) at greater risk for excessive sentencing and wrongful convictions. Three examples happened recently in Florida and Louisiana:
Both women and the teen are black females, which matters more than it should in this land of "liberty and justice for all."
How far will prison owners and investors go with their "quest to arrest"? For the first time in centuries, debtors prisons are making a comeback. For the first time in America, the White House has the option under NDAA to point out any person or group of people and demand their arrest in military concentration camps without naming any crime or allowing trials. The love of money led to slavery in the 1600s, an institution that has made a comeback in America. This is particularly hard on those who through poverty or mental illness are our most vulnerable citizens.
“This county [Fresno] doesn’t care about its treatment of mentally ill behind bars or otherwise,” said Susan Anderson, the recently retired supervisor who watched her colleagues on the board implement cut after cut to the county’s mental health budget until, she said, there was nothing left but skin and bones.
“If the Board of Supervisors wanted mentally ill defendants to get their anti-psychotic medications in jail, all they would need to do is direct the sheriff, the health officer and the jail doctor to do it,” Anderson said. “But the thinking of the board, the sheriff’s [office] and the rest of the criminal justice system here is not about prevention or humanity. It’s all about punishment.”
See also "U.S. Crime Rate Down: Six Key Reasons"