(5-31-16) Thank you to the City Club of Cleveland for allowing me to speak during Mental Health Awareness Month about how we need to stop the jailing of persons with mental illnesses. For more than a hundred years, the club has featured some of the most famous and controversial speakers in our country, including U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Presidents, astronauts, advocates such as Russell Means and Sister Helen Prejean, and my good friend, Bryan Stevenson. Many of you already are familiar with my family’s story and have read my book, but I continue to share it with others who often are shocked to learn that Americans who are clearly sick often end up incarcerated for minor crimes because of their illness. In this speech, I mentioned the starvation death of Jamycheal Mitchell in Portsmouth, Va. who was jailed for 101 days after allegedly taking $5 worth of snacks from a convenience store while psychotic.
Here is what NAMI Cleveland posted after my speech.
A CULTURAL SHADOW LIKE NO OTHER: THE WAREHOUSING OF THE MENTALLY ILL
Jails and prisons have become de facto psychiatric “hospitals” (institutions) which warehouse the seriously mentally ill. We know that 20 percent of inmates in jails and 15 percent of inmates in state prisons have a serious mental illness (356,000), more than 10 times the number of those that remain at state psychiatric hospitals. Seventy percent of adolescents in juvenile correctional facilities have a mental health condition, and 40 percent of individuals with serious mental illnesses have been in jail or prison at some time in their lives.