Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The New Asylums

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about my first trip to an asylum. A regular reader of my blog posted a comment. In part, she wrote:
This is tragically unfortunate because instead of creating a healing environment hospitals create a feeling within patients that they are merely being housed until released. At least this has been my experience with crisis stabilization units. I was literally dumped out into a side parking lot after one release because the tech didn't have time to walk me up to the front of the building!
Many of us would like to think we've come a long way from the abuses of the past. I remain unconvinced. There are myriad experiences like my blog reader shared. Mental health care can be excellent with those with significant financial resources. It can be horrific and neglectful for the middle class and the poor.

Some might think the most horrific images of neglect and abuse may mostly be a thing of the past in psychiatric institutions. They really aren't in the past. We have, as society, just managed to find another way to neglect those who are most vulnerable. Several years back the PBS program Frontline did an excellent documentary on prisoners with mental illness. They suggested--both in images and words--that prisons have become the new asylums.
There are nearly 500,000 mentally ill being held in jails and prisons throughout America. That's ten times the 50,000 that remain in psychiatric hospitals. 
If you don't have time to watch all these clips, just make sure you fast forward to the group therapy scene that starts at 6:25 in clip one. The horrors for those of our neighbors with mental illness have just moved to a new venue: prisons.

For more about asylums click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here.


  1. Hi Jason,

    The scene of the group session reminded me a painting from Foucault's Discipline & Punish. If you google image search with "lecture on the evils of alcoholism in the auditorium of fresnes prison", you'll see why.

    1. Indeed -- I see why!