Friday, October 17, 2014

Overcriminalized: America's use of incarceration as a response to mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness

This series of short YouTube videos by Brave New Films examines the overuse of incarceration and, in the case of the mentally ill, force - too often deadly physical force - as a means to control those who are unable to toe the imaginary line of the social compact, thereby frightening the rule-bound and risk-averse.  The first video, for example, examines the social and economic benefits to utilizing officers and agencies trained in crisis intervention training when responding to those in mental health crisis, an all-to-common component of modern police work.

Given the obvious benefits, "Why wouldn't you do this?" asks one of the implementers of the training program for officers. The answer, sadly, comes not infrequently from the officers required to participate the crisis intervention training: "I'm a cop, I'm not a social worker; I don't believe in this B.S.," which roughly translated, sounds like "a little more force will solve the problem," a mindset that sometimes leads to shooting unarmed teenagers or choking people to death outside of Staten Island convenience stores for the tax code violation of selling loose cigarettes.

H/T Paul Layton

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