Magazine article The Quill

Documentaries-Radio

Magazine article The Quill

Documentaries-Radio

Article excerpt

Dan Collison, Gary Covino

DC Productions

A psychologist who worked at the Cook County Jail had never seen a reporter in the acute care psychiatric unit for the 10 years she'd worked there.

That is, until Dan Collison came around. Collison prides himself on chronicling events virtually ignored by mainstream media; that is the goal of DC Productions, a not-for-profit organization Collison founded.

In "A Danger to Self or Others, Collison tells the story of a mental health staff and detainees in Chicago's Cook County Jail - now Illinois' largest provider of mental health services. At the same time, the documentary reveals how in the last few decades the psychologist's job of treating mentally ill detainees has moved from traditional state hospitals into the state's jails and prisons.

"The documentary calls attention to the fact that jails are fast becoming America's largest psychiatric hospitals and raises the question as to whether this trend is good public policy," wrote Collison. "It sheds light on the people working on the front lines of the battle to help the chronically mentally ill."

The program, edited by Gary Covino, originally aired on WBEZ-FM on April 27 in the series "Chicago Matters: Examining Health." It was broadcast on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" on July 6.

To research his story, Collison spent months phoning, faxing and writing jail officials. Collison's persistence paid off; eventually officials gained so much trust for him that he had, in his words, "unprecedented access" to the jail.

Although the program shows doctors working hard to help the mentally ill, they can only do so much with their limited time and resources, as this excerpt shows:

COLLISON: Scott Welch has been up on 3 North for a day and a half now. The average stay here is three and a half days. Like all the male detainees, he's wearing a khaki department of corrections shirt and pants and just socks. …

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