Sometimes you have to wonder if there is anyone steering the ship. Last week three issues were being discussed that are all tied together and no one seems to see the connection. Homelessness, mass shootings and overfull prisons. Each one of those has a large component that is caused by the non-treatment of the mentally ill. Address that problem and you save a lot of heartache.
On the local front they were talking on the radio about the city of Des Moines’ decision to close down the homeless encampments along the river. On the second issue, Rekha Basu and other liberals were celebrating the memory of James Brady of gun grabber fame. The third issue was a woman who committed a heinous murder in Texas and is due to get a mandatory release in 2018 simply because of a lack of space in Texas prisons.
All three of those issues have in common our failure to address the needs of the mentally ill. I could see it coming in Rekha Basu’s article when I saw the title, “Brady turned tragedy into life mission”. She missed the boat with Brady as did another famous shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords. In both cases, as in most mass shootings, the shooters have been identified as mentally ill and were never treated. But in each case the liberal sees the problem as the gun, never the shooter.
John Hinckley and Jared Loughner were nuts. Brady and Giffords both focused on the guns. Giffords visited a New York gun show a couple of years ago to “draw attention to gun violence”. She should have visited a closed mental health hospital. That is where the problem lies. Both Hinckley and Loughner had contact with law enforcement before their shootings, but nothing was done. Basu and other liberals’ answer is always to take away your gun.
The homeless camps in Des Moines are populated with a mixture of people who are either substance abusers, lazy or mentally ill. The last category are people who are incapable of taking care of themselves through no fault of their own. That is why they are living in a tent by the river.
Thirdly, Human Rights Watch puts the number of mentally ill in the prison system as over 50 %. Think about that. Half the prison population should be in another type of facility. All three of these issues stem from a court case in 1975, O’Connor v Donaldson.
“O’Connor v. Donaldson, 422 U.S. 563 (1975), was a landmark decision in mental health law. The United States Supreme Court ruled that a state cannot constitutionally confine a non-dangerous individual who is capable of surviving safely in freedom by themselves or with the help of willing and responsible family members or friends. Since the trial court jury found, upon ample evidence, that petitioner did so confine respondent, the Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s conclusion that petitioner had violated respondent’s right to liberty.”
What seems to be continuously misread about that decision is the line, “… a non-dangerous individual capable of surviving safely in freedom…”. What part of ‘in a tent by the river’ don’t the authorities get? Once a person has reached that point, it should be obvious to any sane person that the individual isn’t capable of “surviving in freedom”.
The other portion that is forgotten is “non-dangerous”. Virtually every mass shooting is done by a previously identified ill person who was not required to receive treatment. There doesn’t seem to be anything in O’Connor v. Donaldson preventing that. There does seem to be this obstinate desire not to reverse course, when it has become obvious that the move away from institutional living, into community based outpatient facilities was a complete failure.
How can it possibly be anymore obvious? The rate of homeless, the rate of the prison population, the rate of mass shootings? Isn’t it obvious to any thinking person that the large institutional settings are the only option for some individuals? Social experimentation was reasonable, but now the results are in. We have a forty year case study.
Trendy “feel good” projects must sometimes be abandoned in the face of harsh realities. The body count is getting too high. Instead of spending trillions to police the world, maybe we need to spend a few billion to open some closed facilities.