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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/20/10

Horrific Conditions in Los Angeles County Jail

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Horrific Conditions in Los Angeles County Jail - by Stephen Lendman


In July 2008, the Southern California ACLU released a "Report on Mental Health Issues at Los Angeles County" Jail by Dr. Terry Kupers, a practicing psychiatrist, an expert on long-term isolated prison confinement and correctional mental health issues. He's also written numerous articles on these topics, and been an expert witness on the mental health crisis behind bars, what he wrote about in his book "Prison Madness."


In May, he toured the LA County Jail system where most inmates aren't convicted and are awaiting trial - Men's Central Jail (MCJ), Twin Towers 1 & 2 (TT 1 & 2), and the Inmate Reception Center (IRC). He interviewed 18 prisoners in private, confidential settings; others in more casual, cell-front ones; and discussed issues with mental health and custody staff.


As in all prisons nationwide, many LA County inmates suffer "serious mental illness." Incarceration exacerbates it. They need treatment, but aren't getting it.


Besides prison confinement harm, state mental hospital deinstitutionalization took hold in the 1980s, part of Reagan Revolution policies that whatever government can do, business does better, so let it. As a result, large numbers of seriously ill patients were discharged, based on studies indicating community care was superior to state facilities. The consequences were predictable. The promise was never realized because of budget cuts, unaffordable housing, and other priorities.


In 1955, state and VA psychiatric hospitals had about 550,000 patients. In 2008, there were less than 60,000, but given constraints today on budget strapped states and communities, the numbers are likely lower and dropping.


Yet according to a study by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, over a million individuals suffer from significant mental illness in jails and prisons. With 20,000 detainees, some call the LA County Jail system the largest psychiatric hospital in the country (the Men's Central Jail has 5,000), but, like elsewhere, treatment there's not forthcoming.


Correctional setting mental illness factors:


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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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