Ian Hacking just asked about whether or not an English translation of the
whole of the madness book was ever going to come out. Right after
reading that I came across this bit from the New York Times:


LOS ANGELES -- Michael H. had not had a shave or haircut in months when he
was found one recent morning sleeping on the floor of St. Paul's Episcopal
Church in suburban Lancaster, next to empty cans of tuna and soup from the
church pantry.

There was little to suggest that he had once been a prosperous college
graduate with a wife and two children -- until he developed schizophrenia,
lost his job and, without insurance, could no longer afford the drugs
needed to control his mental illness.

Charged with illegal entry and burglary, Michael H. was taken to the Los
Angeles County Jail. The jail, by default, is the nation's largest mental
institution. On an average day, it holds 1,500 to 1,700 inmates who are
severely mentally ill, most of them detained on minor charges, essentially
for being public nuisances.

The situation in the jail, scathingly criticized as unconstitutional by
the United States Justice Department last fall, is the most visible
evidence that jails and prisons have become the nation's new mental

On any day, almost 200,000 people behind bars -- more than 1 in 10 of the
total -- are known to suffer from schizophrenia, manic depression or major
depression, the three most severe mental illnesses. The rate is four times
that in the general population. And there is evidence, particularly with
juveniles, that the numbers in jail are growing.

Some of these people have committed serious, violent crimes. But many more
are homeless people like Michael H., charged with minor crimes that are
byproducts of their illnesses. Others are picked up with no charges at
all, in what police call mercy arrests, simply for acting strange.

They include adults like Helen Rose Akanni, a woman with paranoid
schizophrenia who was mistakenly charged with drunken driving and held
for a week before a psychiatrist saw her. They include teen-agers like
Jason E., a manic-depressive whose violence gives his father the choice
of having him jailed or endangering his family.

"Part of mental illness in America now is that you are going to get
arrested," said Laurie M. Flynn, executive director of the National
Alliance for the Mentally Ill, an advocacy group of relatives and friends
of people with mental disorders.

What experts call the criminalization of the mentally ill has grown as an
issue as the nation's inmate population has exploded and as corrections
officials and families of the emotionally disturbed have become alarmed by
the problems posed by having the mentally ill behind bars.

But the trend began in the 1960s, with the mass closings of public mental
hospitals. At the time, new antipsychotic drugs made medicating patients
in the community seem a humane alternative to long-term hospitalization.
States also seized the chance to slash hospital budgets. From a high of
559,000 in 1955, the number of patients in state institutions dropped to
69,000 in 1995. [end excerpt from NYT]

Remember Foucault's book discusses the shift from treating the insane as
criminals to developing special institutions for them. In the 60s and 70s
we threw them back out onto the street, and now they're making their
way back into the jails.

--John Ransom

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