Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Authors Contend Mental Illness Should not be Criminalized

No that is not a picture of Judge Bernie Bober, it is of author Risdon Slate. A few weeks after some state legislators took a tour of the decrepit conditions on the ninth floor of the Dade County Jail comes this interesting story about a new book released by a criminology professor at Florida Southern College, one Risdon Slate. It was discussed at Florida Issues, a first class straightforward law blog site.

Slate lectured with W. Wesley Johnson, president of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, on how and why jails have become the largest inpatient psychiatric institutions in the United States. Lecture was at the college in Lakeland.

The authors discussed why criminalization of mental illness creates both a crisis and an opportunity for meaningful change. Their talk came a few days after Florida lawmakers passed an amended budget that cuts 2008-09 funding for mental-health programs, continuing years in which mental-health advocates say money for community care already was too low. How does anyone do this at a time when we know more and more people who are going to jail have seriously rooted mental issues?

"The criminal justice and mental health system is a total mess these days," said Slate, who has spent years advocating for improved treatment as a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "You've got a citizenry that doesn't want to pay a dime for anything," he said. " ... But you pay more in the long run. It's better to pay up front than it is to pay later."

Slate and Johnson have authored a book entitled "Criminalization of Mental Illness, Crisis and Opportunity for the Justice System." The almost 400-page softback he and Johnson published in 2008 begins with the history of treatment and a summary of the current problems, but much of it is devoted to different agencies involved when people with mental illnesses come into conflict with the justice system.

This book should be required reading for public defenders, judges, and anyone in the criminal justice system.

Are you old enough to remember how Geraldo Rivera got his start in journalism, as a local reporter in New York City, exposing the depraved conditions at mental health facilities at Willowbrook State School on Staten Island ? Are we old enough to realize how many years have passed and how little we have still accomplished?

1 comment:

  1. I think Bernie Bober is distinguishing himself as a great judge and the picture does loook like him a little