Writing a short anecdotal narrative with an attempt to depict the horrific conditions and insights as well as their plights of the thousands of dead men walking inside America’s prisons this message is both difficult and often misunderstood. As a former prison official this article will take you to quick tour of a place where we visit the anguish, hopelessness and the anxiety that government agents and criminal lawyers have created that is no doubt just the tip of the iceberg as more and more men and women are swallowed into the abyss of their prison wilderness equipped with no survival gear or methods to cope with the tragedies and avoid the supplementary punishment that is awaiting them around every corner of those hollow corridors made of concrete and steel. The difficult part is that unless you have ever worked inside a prison or large jail, you will never be able to infer or absorb the reality of this trauma with its full effect; and if you are someone like me who used to wear a badge, advocating for change for these mentally ill prisoners will test your motive as you and your efforts for change will most likely be misunderstood by your peer and readers.
Regardless, ever since the civil libertarians started jerking us around back in those days after World War II and started to pass laws that prevented or obtained barriers to lawfully intervene the treatment of persons with serious mental illnesses, the prison world has changed. Designed for retribution and rehabilitation of those who commit with criminal intent, government officials, judges and politicians deinstitutionalized many state hospitals and released thousands of untreated individuals into the streets creating a whole new generation of persons that would eventually fill our jails and prisons. Adding war veterans who carry their share of trauma coming home from the wars fought overseas these groups of people suffer needlessly because of their propensity to be in conflict with society and their laws. Replacing state hospitals with prisons was the doom of those 16 to 20 % of prisoners inside penitentiaries today, who carry with them the stigma of being mentally ill and most likely having problems coping within the razor wired perimeters, its subculture and disgrace of living inside one of these concrete boxes. Whether you believe it or not, many SMI persons do not commit calculated and premeditated crimes and are often helpless to defend themselves in the courts by poorly trained or experienced public defenders.
Correctional officials and prison officers, ill taught and prepared to handle the masses of the serious mentally ill (SMI) react with cultural fears that these prisoners are violent and must be controlled no matter what tools or methods they require even if it means locking them up 23/7 inside one of those steamy concrete boxes that shares no light, no air and no compassion with its environment of solitary confinement and untreated poor health. Not once is there a distinction made between the “mad” or psychotic prisoner and the “bad” behavioral prisoner. SMI prisoners who actually have federal protection as being a disabled person under the ADA Act, are not being treated different from those whowere convicted while sane and showedcriminal intent SMIexperience multiple problems recognizing the rules and regulations of their facilities and staff but receive the same treatment and sanctions as those who willfully and knowingly violate the rules with often more severity for being misunderstood and showing no remorse or comprehension of their misdeed. . Compounded with being ignored and treated with deliberate indifference by many, these SMI prisoners are awaiting their execution date as their time is stretched because of numerous infractions inside their resulting in the forfeiture of time deducted and replaced with time to be spent in hell. The social unawareness both inside these prisons and inside the communities have created a faux replacement for state hospitals as the prisons now serve the purpose once designed for clinical and reasonable accommodations for the mentally ill.
Like the hundreds of victims lost in a hurricane or earthquake somewhere in our nation or in our world the names of every victim will never be revealed and only mourned or remembered by those who know them by name and their families and friends who have not forlorn them for being convicted and put in jail or prisons because the criminal justice system refuses to identify their special needs and revise their laws to provide sound alternatives to incarceration and allow many of these SMI to remain in the community and attend, be housed or treated in outpatient clinics. The irony of this tragedy is that the prevention of sending these persons to prison will actually be cheaper than incarceration if the laws permitted it and until society accepts the facts that SMI persons are not always violent and do well when they are treated and on medication, the communities could save millions of dollars on prison costs and get a better return on their investment in human mankind and saving these SMI prisoners from certain death as their destiny inside a prison is release, die due to poor medical care, suicide or homicide by others not tolerant of those who carry the stigma of being bizarre and uncontrollable thus posing a threat to others not mentally ill.