I ran across this rant in a comment thread from a post about how awful Reagan was. The “#1” he is referring to was Reagan’s closing down mental hospitals and its effect on jails, prisons and the mentally ill. This deserves to be widely read.
Here’s an interesting statistic regarding #1: I am a police officer in the United States, the county I work in has the largest inmate population on the state. As of 01:00 this morning our jail housed 2238 inmates, not including the ~80-120 that are in booking waiting to be processed, bonded out, or released.
Our jail is technically the largest mental health facility in the state.
Approximately 60% of the residents in the jail are either homeless or have mental health conditions preventing gainful employment.
Approximately 15% of the homeless people in the jail are veterans of the United States Military.
Our jail has 1800 bunks.
Our jail has 7 floors housing inmates, not including booking/releasing. Each floor is designed to be staffed by 10 officers per shift, for a total of 70 housing officers, not including the ~5 needed for the kitchen, ~15 needed for booking/releasing, and ~20 support staff to fill miscellaneous roles. This is a total of roughly 100 officers per shift.
The average platoon (shift) manpower strength was at 34. This number includes officers that regularly come in for overtime.
Our budget shortfall has potential to create layoffs.
I’m begging you, actually begging you people reading this, please, please elect people that will help us. It is not my fault that my governor and county commissioners point blank refuse to give us the money and manpower to do our jobs. It is not fair to task 18 year old kids making $12.41/hr with a can of mace with diagnosing, caring for, and dealing with severely mentally handicapped and frequently violent people the state shuffles over to us on the grounds that “well, they’re technically criminals.” I am no longer in the jail, but I was, and I know how bad it really is. The scary part is that our story is not unique, all over the country the CJS is being used by the state to soak up mentally ill people that truly don’t know better and often can’t find the help they need, and even when they can find it, can’t afford it. last winter our number of inmates shot up to over 3000 (remember, 1800 bunks) because people would rather live in a 10x10 concrete box with three other men than be cold and hungry on the street. Guess who was blamed by the media for not providing adequate housing? Was it the commissioners who denied our budget requests and refused to submit a tax (which would solve 100% of our problems) to vote? Was it the Governor who sunk our last remaining state-run mental hospital on the grounds that it was “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”?
No, they blamed the pimply, 18 year old officers outnumbered 66 to 1. They blamed the 19 year old Corporal (that’s right, the boss of one of those floors of mentally ill and murderers alike is too young to buy a beer) trying to desperately keep morale up by using his “supervisor privileges” (such as a lunch break, and an extra $80 a month) to get his tired officer(s) some Chinese food.