Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Alternatives to Prison for People with Mental Illness / Comedian Paula Poundstone

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Apr 4, 2017 8:00 PM

Nearly two million people with serious mental illnesses are incarcerated in America every year.  About a quarter of Pennsylvania's prisoners suffer from mental illness.  The chief of medical operations for the Philadelphia Department of Prisons describes the state's county jail system as "the largest psychiatric hospital in the state of Pennsylvania."

In response, state and county officials are rolling out a multiyear initiative with the goal of reducing the population of inmates with mental illness and directing them towards treatment rather than incarceration, as well as training first responders how to handle situations involving mentally ill citizens.  The 'Stepping Up' program is already in use in Ohio and California.

Smart Talk will discuss the initiative with Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, Richard Cho, Director of Behavioral Health at the Council of State Governments Justice Center and Brinda Carroll Penyak, Deputy Director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.


John Wetzel - Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Also, Paula Poundstone began a stand-up career in the early Eighties and made her mark with her wry and snarky observations of the everyday routine of life.  She starred in several cable specials through the 90's and has been a regular staple on NPR's Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!  Poundstone continues to tour with as a stand-up comic and will appear at Bucknell's Weis Center on Satuday.  Smart Talk checks in with her to talk about her 40-year comedy career and her take on current events.


Paula Poundstone


 - Pennsylvania state lawmakers cannot force employers to hire people. So how does someone get around the stigma of ex-cons need not apply?

 If a person coming out of prison or simply out of jail can no longer find a meaningful and productive job then it falls back on the taxpayers to pay for them through welfare help.                                                   - Paul

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