Insane: America's Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness

Basic. Apr. 2018. 320p. notes. index. ISBN 9780465094196. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780465094202. LAW
As reported here by veteran journalist Roth, mental illness affects more than half of the inmates in U.S. prisons, and mass incarceration has aggravated the problem. As a result, correctional facilities have become mental health providers by default, exhibiting many of the poor conditions and abusive aspects of mental asylums of the past. Roth mines an impressive array of interviews, case studies, official records, research, and statistics to support this view. The book is organized around the process of criminalization. Initial chapters discuss how and why the mentally ill are easily drawn into the criminal justice system, including a history of U.S. mental health care. The following section evaluates how correctional facilities provide such care, concluding that failure is inevitable in a security-based, low-resource environment. Finally, the author details reasons for the revolving door that tends to pull mentally ill offenders back into the system. The work concludes with specific ideas for reform. As a broad national survey, it complements similar but more locally focused volumes such as Elizabeth Ford's Sometimes Amazing Things Happen.
VERDICT Gritty and fact-filled, this passionate book will enlighten general readers about a vulnerable population in a dysfunctional justice system.

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