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

Smart Talk: Why so many mentally ill in prison?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jul 28, 2015 9:20 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, July 28, 2015:

Up to a third of Pennsylvania prison inmates suffer from mental illness.

It's not just a Pennsylvania problem either as a report from the PEW Charitable Trust points out:

According to a 2009 study cited by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, an estimated 2 million adults with serious mental illnesses are jailed in the course of a year. Studies, including one from the Urban Institute, say they tend to stay in jail longer than those without mental illnesses, return to jail more often and cost local jurisdictions more money while incarcerated. More frequently than not, they are jailed for minor offenses, such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace or illicit drug use.

The Patriot-News/PennLive last week published a series called From Patients to Prisoners that investigated reasons for the increasing number of mentally ill inmates. 

What they found include the closure of state mental hospitals over the past two decades and police officers not trained in dealing with mental illness or having no treatment alternatives for a mentally ill person who has broken the law.

Appearing on Tuesday's Smart Talk are Patriot-News/PennLive reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, who researched and wrote the series of articles, and Pennsylvania's Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel.

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Secretary John Wetzel and Daniel Simmons-Ritchie

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  • Robert D Colgan img 2015-07-28 07:34

    Prisons in the USA are now used for sustenance of the salaries of everyone in the system------judges, lawyers, police, probationers, court staffing, district attornies, prison staff, etc-------who draws a paycheck from maintenance of the "Let's-Keep-People-In-Cages" syndrome that has grown like crabgrass in the body politic since the 1960s.
    Prisons exist not because they make life better for everyone------but because they make money for the people whose livelihoods depend on the capture/processing/care and feeding of the zoo inmates.

    Prisons and jails are not about helping society------ but about helping those who profit from keeping the system intact,. . . . or growing it.
    Prisons are about profits.

    And since prisons generate recidivism-------the penal system is self-sustaining.
    For a guaranteed revenue stream of "paying customers" the system preys on the weakest, the most vulnerable, the least able to defend themselves.
    Year after year after year after year. . . . . . it keeps churning along, dragging more and more people into its maw.

  • Linda img 2015-07-28 10:28

    My comment has to do with your guests this morning and their overuse of the word "folks". Inmates, convicts, felons, murderers, offenders, etc. are not the "folks".
    To me, my parents are the "folks"; the older couple next door are the "folks." NOT inmates, convicts, felons, murderers, offenders, etc.