Some Reality Regarding "Mentally Ill" Inmates

by ALADS Board of Directors
A recent Associated Press story about the population of the Los Angeles County Jail system and the increase in meth-fueled inmates was notable for the utter lack of interest in who were victims of the jail population, be it the victims of the crimes or the deputies they attack while in custody.
 
Let's be clear that while those in jail may suffer from mental illness, they are still legally responsible for their crimes; their victims suffered no less because of the persons accused of the crime were mentally ill.  We do not accept the excuse that because of their mental illness, an inmate's attacks on jail deputies should be excused.  In 2016, over 195 deputies were the victims of " gassing" attacks (the throwing of urine, feces or semen) by aggressive jail inmates who had either actually had mental health issues or used the claim of "mental illness" to attempt to excuse their behavior.  Attacks on deputies should not be accepted as just being "part of the job."
 
The state legislature is responsible in large part for the rise of inmates with mental health issues.  It is the state, not local law enforcement, which made the decision to close mental institutions, refuse to allow involuntary mental health treatment, and then dump on the streets those who could/should have been treated. Instead, we simply wait for them to victimize other people, incarcerate them for those crimes, and then blame jail deputies guarding them for not being orderlies or psychiatrists.
 
The state legislature has  compounded this problem by first shifting, via AB 109 , large populations of inmates to serve terms in local jails instead of state prison and then failing to provide adequate funding for programs and facilities to deal with this increasing population. Similarly, initiatives such as Prop 47 sold to voters as a program that would lead to better rehabilitation, has essentially decriminalized drug possession and theft crimes. The mentally ill population which commit these crimes have been effectively removed from even the ability of the criminal justice system to force enrollment into mental health treatment, as there is no longer potential of incarceration as a hammer should they fail to show up to court or comply with probation.   
 
It was not a brilliant idea to give those with serious mental health issues "freedom" to roam the street, only intervening with incarceration (i.e., involuntary commitment) after they have victimized others with a serious crime.  Jails are not mental health institutions, and blaming jails and the deputies and others who work in them for failing to be full-fledged mental facilities continues the avoidance of the hard question of how to effectively deal with the mentally ill population before they commit crimes.
 
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 7,900 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County. 

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