Mother Jones published an article and video yesterday featuring the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court. The article – "Can Mental Health Courts Fix California's Prison Overcrowding?" – discusses how California's Three Strikes Law has "inadvertently resulted in the incarceration of a lot relatively harmless people, for a long time and at great public expense."
The statistics are staggering. Mentally ill inmates make up 45% of California's prison population. Mentally ill offenders also receive longer sentences than their non-mentally ill counterparts across all felonies.
"Once in prison, [mentally ill inmates'] illnesses go untreated, and the prison conditions
exacerbate their behavioral symptoms. As a result, they are at greater
risk of getting in trouble for breaking prison rules and being
sanctioned with severe disciplinary measures, including solitary
confinement—a vicious cycle that can make their symptoms even worse,
getting them in even more trouble."
Citing their effectiveness and cost-savings, State Senator Darrell Steinberg and professors from Stanford Law
School's Three Strikes project are calling for more investment in mental health courts. There are currently 40 mental health courts across 27 counties in
California, including the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court.
The video was directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Kattie Galloway of Loteria Films.