Let’s Put the Lunatics Back in the Asylum

Here’s a modest proposal to deal with the problem of gun violence in our culture, an idea that will solve several other problems as well.

It goes all the way back to the 1960’s and 70’s and one of the worst well-intentioned ideas in history–the deinstitutionalization of mental patients. When the state hospitals were closed, the patients spilled out into our cities and communities. They ended up in halfway houses, minimal care facilities, places where they might or might not take their meds. Frequently they ended up on the street. We’ve seen our homeless population burgeon since the closing of those institutions. Today the seriously mentally ill comprise about 25% of America’s homeless population.*  For the healthy freedom is grand; for the seriously mentally ill it’s a hellish nightmare.

Furthermore, our jails and prisons are being misused as warehouses for the seriously mentally ill. For every one mental patient in a hospital there are three doing time in our jails.** For the sick, this represents a form  of cruel and unusual punishment. For the corrections system it’s an unnecessary burden and, for the taxpayer, a costly one.

And now we know all too well that some of these seriously mentally ill can easily acquire automatic weapons and go on wild shooting sprees. If we brought back the state mental hospitals, at least some of these people would be off the streets and incapable of buying arms.  Some innocent lives would be spared. How much is a child’s life worth?

I propose that we bring back the state mental hospitals because:

1) it will give the mentally ill more help than they’re getting now.

2  it will reduce the number of helpless, mentally ill people roaming our streets.

2) it will reduce stress on  correctional facilities being used for the wrong purpose.

3) it will save the lives of the sick and those they can harm.

4) it will take some of the potential shooters off the streets, put them in a place where they can get their meds regularly and, most importantly, keep them away from the guns.

5)  it will probably be cheaper, in both treasure and in blood, than to continue paying the high price we are paying now.

Stated crudely,  let’s put the lunatics back in the asylum.

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts/Mental_Illness.pdf

**http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/storage/documents/final_jails_v_hospitals_study.pdf

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