Letters to the Editor

Louise Fisher: Treat, don’t incarcerate mentally ill people

Regarding the Nov. 9 news article “ State locks down info on inmate death”: Thanks to the bravery of David Chambers, the public got a small glimpse of the disgraceful and paltry treatment of North Carolina’s mentally ill residents.

For decades prisons and jails have housed more mentally ill patients than hospitals have. Downsizing and closing state hospitals only increased the number of incarcerations of mental patients. It’s much easier to incarcerate them than to spend days trying to find empty psychiatric beds in North Carolina.

Placing mental patients in jails and prisons is not at all appropriate for many reasons. It criminalizes persons who suffer from a no-fault brain disease. Often they are isolated, and studies have shown this to be detrimental to the mentally ill.

Unlike state hospitals, prisons do not train their staff to serve the mentally ill.

Abuse of the mentally ill is nothing new but is rarely publicized. In 1999 The N&O reported on abuse and death of mentally ill patients in Central Prison. How many more unnecessary deaths from inappropriate imprisonment of mentally ill individuals have to occur before we decide to adequately treat persons with mental illness?

Louise Fisher