Monday, October 29, 2007

With Friends Like These

who needs to find anything to post on your own? Many thanks to the folks who sent these to me and to you.

First this:
The American Psychiatric Association reports that up to 20 percent of the inmates currently incarcerated in our prisons and jails are seriously mentally ill. That equates to more than 300,000 inmates and represents a rate of mental illness that is four times higher than that of the general population.

Congressman Ted Strictland (D-Ohio), a member of the House Committee on Crime, reports that between 25 and 40 percent of all mentally ill Americans will become involved in the criminal justice system during their lives. A 1999 report by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill found that the number of seriously mentally ill individuals incarcerated was three times higher then those being hospitalized for the same illnesses.
A mentally ill inmate’s inability to comply with orders often leads to a poor disciplinary record and results in their failure to be paroled. Many mentally ill inmates will “max-out” their term or will serve up to 85 percent of their total sentence.
Two other factors contribute to this ongoing problem. One is the understaffing of mental health personnel and the quality of those who are hired. Of 17,640 prison mental health workers only 18 percent are either psychiatrists or psychologists. According to the 2001 Corrections Yearbook 58.6 percent of all mental health staff held titles that did not require them to have a mental health degree or any specialized training. The “Corrections Forum” (January/February 2006) reported that 12 percent of correctional facilities had no mental health programs whatsoever. Funding is also very problematic. According to a survey in the “Corrections Forum,” 73 percent of correctional agencies appropriate less than $500,000 for their entire mental health program.

Our nation’s prisons and jails are not designed nor equipped to deal with this population. Correctional Officers are not mental health professionals. We are not trained to deal with the mentally ill. We may be able to keep them medicated; we may be able to keep them segregated; we may even be able to protect them from becoming prey; but we cannot solve this problem.

Mentally ill inmates should be in facilities designed with one purpose: to address their needs and provide a safe, stable environment in which they can hopefully get better. This is not to imply that they should be immune from prosecution for the crimes they commit; they should not be. However, the insanity of the insanity plea is another issue for another day.

Then this:
A technological revolution is making it possible not just to track down escaping bank robbers but to find missing things and people far more quickly and precisely than ever.

The change is powered less by new technologies than the artful combination of existing ones, mainly the Internet, cellphones and G.P.S. satellites. In some cases, the new devices linked to these systems can even detect a theft before it happens.

"This stuff is coming down the pike very soon," said Jim Van Cleave, vice president of Spectrum Management, which has developed tracking systems for commercial and covert uses since 1980. "The number of potential applications is mind-boggling."
Next spring the group will introduce new bracelets, created by Locator Systems, a British Columbia company, that combine radio signals with G.P.S. and cellular communications. That should allow caregivers to establish a zone where patients can safely wander, said Jim McIntosh, the company's chief executive. If patients wander off, emergency crews could receive more specific information.

But most of the work is aimed at recovering stolen property, potentially saving billions.

OnStar, the G.P.S.-based navigation system offered by General Motors, will start a "stolen vehicle slowdown" service next spring to help avoid dangerous high-speed chases. If an equipped vehicle is stolen, police can ask OnStar to send a wireless message to the onboard computer, cutting the engine's power.

The driver, said Chet Huber, OnStar's president, will have time to pull off the road safely. After that, the thief is on his own.

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