We observe that you are closing your psychiatric hospitals and placing the mentally ill in your prisons. Is mental illness now considered a crime?
No. You must be confused by the fact that, in Raleigh, we are closing Dorothea Dix Hospital at the same time we are building a new mental health facility at Central Prison, which is across the road on Western Boulevard. Or perhaps you read about the U.S. Department of Justice study that found that more than half of our prison and jail inmates suffer from some form of mental illness. In fact, about the same proportion of adults are “institutionalized” today in America as 40 years ago, when we started closing mental facilities in the first wave of “deinstitutionalization,” according to University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt. The difference is that the vast majority used to be in hospitals, and less than 200,000 were imprisoned. Now, the reverse is true, and the prison population is over 2 million. “Though troubling, none of this should come as a surprise,” Harcourt says. “[We] dismantled a colossal mental health complex and rebuiltbed by bedan enormous prison.” It shows our “schizophrenic relationship to deviance,” he adds. Meaning we’d like to be sympathetic, but we just aren’t.