Handling the Triple Whammy: Serious Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and Criminal Behavior
Groom, Bill, Corrections Today
"I'm not SCHIZOID," the young man said. "I'm a person with an illness - schizophrenia. But it doesn't CONTROL me anymore. With my meds I control it. I seldom HEAR VOICES now, and when do, I don't pay any attention to them."
We sat in the sun on two plastic chairs in the small prison yard. He is an inmate in San Carlos Correctional Facility's therapeutic community (TC), a 32-bed wing of the four-story, 250-bed prison for male inmates with serious mental illnesses. It was opened by the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) in Pueblo in 1995. (A TC traditionally is a voluntary substance abuse treatment program in which the residents, with the guidance and supervision of trained staff, are the primary therapists for one another.)
In his soft voice, the inmate spoke expertly of his mental disease. He told of a difficult childhood and abuse of alcohol and drugs. Surprisingly, he didn't use any of this as an excuse for his crime. "I'm responsible for the harm I did," he said. "It would be easy to blame my more or dope. And when I found out here that I had schizophrenia, I had an even better excuse."
'What caused you to give up your excuses?" I asked.
"It took a while - quite a while - several months here." He tilted his head toward the other inmates walking or sitting in the yard and said, "They're the ones who made me change."
Prisons Becoming Mental Hospitals
TCs for mentally ill offenders are arriving on the scene none too soon. For many reasons the number of mentally ill inmates in prison has risen dramatically during the last several years:
* Mental hospitals have been downsizing. Community health centers were supposed to provide the therapy and medication that those with seriously mental illnesses needed, but the centers generally have not been effective. Either support is lacking or the mentally ill don't use them.
* Those who are mentally ill are likely to be alienated from family and friends. They have a hard time getting or holding a job. Over time, many of them will stop taking their medication and turn to criminal behavior to meet their needs.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Handling the Triple Whammy: Serious Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and Criminal Behavior. Contributors: Groom, Bill - Author. Magazine title: Corrections Today. Volume: 61. Issue: 4 Publication date: July 1999. Page number: 114+. © 2009 American Correctional Association, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.