Student Note on Criminalization of Mental Illness
New on Westlaw: Chad Sublet, Has the Cold Mercy of Institutionalization Been Replaced by the Cold Merciless Steel of the Jailhouse?, 15-FALL Kan. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 159 (2005). The introduction:
In 1963, President Kennedy initiated the closing of inpatient state mental health facilities by signing the Community Mental Health Centers Act. During the signing ceremony, President Kennedy proclaimed the "reliance on the cold mercy of custodial isolation will be supplanted by the open warmth of community concern and capability." Unfortunately, the cold steel of juvenile detention facilities supplanted President Kennedy's dream of a warm and open community instead.
This article will examine the policy of criminalizing disability through the unnecessary and inappropriate incarceration of children with mental health challenges. Generally, this Article will follow the life of Nelson, a sixteen-year-old boy committed to the Valley Youth Correctional facility in May of 1996. In doing so, this Article will focus on four discrete areas. First, this Article will examine the prevalence of incarcerating children with mental health needs. Second, this Article will identify factors influencing the current policy of inappropriate incarceration. Third, this Article will analyze the policy of inappropriate incarceration utilizing the core concepts of disability policy as the framework. Finally, this Article will examine alternatives to inappropriate incarceration and the role of the body politic in the coming years.