Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book Review

The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens by E. Fuller Torrey

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the mid 1960s, America began emptying and closing its mental hospitals, all in the name of civil rights. California was the first state to do so and by the mid 1980s, the other 49 states had followed suit.

The author calls this "one of the great social disasters in recent American history." It has created at least 175,000 homeless mentally ill men and women in this country, many of whom become victims of violence -- muggings, rapes, murders. Many of these same mentally ill are responsible for an increased number of violent crimes against their own family members and other hapless citizens.

Let's look at some statistics from California:

* California has 38,000 sverely mentally ill homeless living on its streets on any given day -- mostly in LA and San Francisco.

* About 9,000 severely mentally ill individuals who are in dire need of treatment are incarcerated in California's county jails. That's about 11% of the total jail population.

* Worse, about 32,000 severely mentally ill inhabit California's state prisons. That's about 20% of the total of state prisoners.

* Between 1970 and 2004, severely mentally ill individuals who were not receiving treatment were responsible for 4700 California homocides. Each year they commit some 120 more murders.

Each state has its own mental illness statistics that when added to California's paint a grim picture indeed. Our concern for the civil rights of the mentally ill have caused tens and thousands of innocent American citizens to lose one of their most precious rights -- The right to life!

Torrey uses statistics, court records, news reports and other sources to hammer home the seriousness of this problem. If cold statistics are n ot enough, the book also contains poignant interviews the author had with the mentally ill, their families and their victims. One only needs to read this troublesome book to realize the system isn't working and needs to be replaced before it creates even more victims.

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