by Debra Muzikar
As I write this, a couple of my friends have children who are facing incarceration. Their children are autistic. Autistic people do not belong in jails and prisons. An estimated one in five prisoners in the US has a serious mental illness or developmental disability including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, and major depression.
On May 12, 2015, Human Rights Watch released a report “Callous and Cruel: Use of Force Against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons.” Jamie Fellner, of the Human Rights Commission, wrote “Force is used against prisoners even when, because of their illness, they cannot understand or comply with staff orders”.
Experts conducted for the reports state “the misuse of force against prisoners with mental health problems is widespread and may be increasing.”
Jails and prisons serve the largest number of psychiatric patients in the United States. They are designed as punitive, not therapeutic, institutions. The report states inmates with mental disorders “may refuse to follow orders to sit down, to come out of a cell, to stop screaming, to change their clothes, to take a shower, or to return a food tray.”
I know autistic people who have been incarcerated who don’t always understand the directions told to them. They have been abused in prison.
You can do something today. Contact your representative to sign The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act. This is bi-partisan legislation.
I just completed the form above on NAMI. It’s very simple. Once you put in your address they will email a letter to your representatives.