Guilty of Mental Illness

Criminalizing mental illness is costly, inhumane and counterproductive. On average it costs $143 a day to incarcerate someone who is not mentally ill, but twice as much if the individual has a psychiatric condition and requires doctor’s care, medication and extra security. Experts say the money used to lock people up could be better spent helping people get the mental health and other social services they need to live productive, meaningful lives.

Many are incarcerated for committing survival crimes, offenses involving people trying to get something to eat, find a place to sleep and just get by. Incarceration can also exacerbate psychiatric illness…

 

via Guilty of Mental Illness.

 

 

 

L. A. spends more money policing homeless than helping

The city of Los Angeles says it spends more than $100 million per year on homelessness, for a homeless population of 23,000. More than 80% of that money is spent on things that are not “building places for the homeless to live,” which could be one reason the homeless population in L.A. is growing.

A new report shows that more than half of the $100 million the city of Los Angeles spends on homelessness each year goes to the LAPD. Critics say this illustrates the city’s priority on criminalizing the homeless instead of helping them, LA Times reports.

It “supports what we’ve been saying for years that this city is doing almost nothing to advance housing solutions but continues down the expensive and inhumane process of criminalization that only makes the problem worse,” said Becky Dennison of Los Angeles Community Action Network — a skid row advocacy group.

via Los Angeles spends more money policing the homeless than helping them: report.

Guilty of Being Poor

Here’s something you might not know about Ferguson, Missouri: In this city of 21,000 people, 16,000 have outstanding arrest warrants. In fact, in 2013 alone, authorities issued 9,000 warrants for over 32,000 offenses.

That’s one-and-a-half offenses for every resident of Ferguson in just one year.

Most of the warrants are for minor offenses such as traffic or parking violations. And they’re part of a structural pattern of abuse, according to a recent Department of Justice investigation.

The damning report found that the city prioritized aggressive revenue collection over public safety. It documented unconstitutional policing, violations of due process, and racial bias against the majority black population.

One woman’s story illustrates what’s happening to more and more people as municipal revenues become the focus of police departments all over the country.

It began with a parking ticket back in 2007, which saddled a low-income black woman with a $151 fine and extra fees. In economic distress and frequently homeless, she was unable to pay. So she was hit with new fines and fees — and eventually an arrest warrant that landed her in jail.

By 2010, she’d paid the court $550 for the single parking violation, but more penalties had accrued. She attempted to make payments of $25 and $50, but the court rejected those partial installments.

Even after being jailed and paying hundreds of dollars above the original fine, she still owes the court $541 — all because she lacked the money to pay the initial fees.

This woman’s story is repeating itself in town after town.

It’s even worse for the homeless. A majority of cities now prohibit sitting or lying down in public, and nearly a quarter make it a crime to ask for food or money.

via Guilty of Being Poor | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

More Generous Unemployment Benefits Lead To Lower Suicide Rates

Six months after Congress gave up on providing long-term unemployment benefits to job seekers who have exhausted their state-level unemployment insurance systems, new research shows that less generous unemployment support systems are connected to higher suicide rates.

The solid line in this chart from the paper shows the correlation between the unemployment rate and the annual number of suicide deaths per 100,000 workers in states with high benefit levels. The dotted line shows the correlation in states with low benefit levels.

The solid line in this chart from the paper shows the correlation between the unemployment rate and the annual number of suicide deaths per 100,000 workers in states with high benefit levels. The dotted line shows the correlation in states with low benefit levels.

States that offer higher levels of replacement income for residents who are looking for work but unable to find a job experience significantly lower suicide rates than less generous states, according to a study by two London School of Economics researchers and a University of California San Francisco epidemiologist. Suicide rates have long been known to correlate with economic conditions and the unemployment rate, but the new research finds that higher unemployment insurance payments dull the connection between economic factors and suicide.

The mental health benefits of providing a buffer to out-of-work people provide further evidence that such programs are a net benefit for society rather than a net cost. Unemployment insurance has long been understood to provide more economic benefits than what it costs to administer and pay out, and it ranks among the most efficient forms of economic stimulus that the government has at its disposal.

via More Generous Unemployment Benefits Lead To Lower Suicide Rates.

Personal and emotional cost of austerity.

The high unemployment that we have today in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere is a tragedy, not just because of the aggregate output loss that it entails, but also because of the to the unemployed of not being a part of working society.

austerity

Austerity, according to some of its promoters, is supposed to improve morale. British Prime Minister David Cameron, an austerity advocate, says he believes that his program reduces “welfare dependency,” restores “rigor,” and encourages the “the doers, the creators, the life-affirmers.” Likewise, Rep. Paul Ryan says that his program is part of a plan to promote “creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Some kinds of austerity programs may indeed boost morale. Monks find their life’s meaning in a most austere environment, and military boot camps are thought to build character. But the kind of fiscal austerity that is being practiced now has the immediate effect of rendering people jobless and filling their lives with nothing but a sense of rejection and exclusion.

via We need stimulus, not austerity, to combat unemployment. – Slate Magazine.

In NC, poverty pervades as we evade

We speak much for equality in the United States. Our first statement as a nation attests it’s a “self-evident truth” that all are “created equal.” Lincoln reminded, at Gettysburg, we were “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition” of equality. Our constitution is premised on “equal protection of the laws.” Allegiance is pledged, continuously, to “liberty and justice for all.” We talk a good game. But what we do has little in common with what we say.

sleeping in their carIn the richest nation on earth, over 15 percent of us fall below the stingy federal poverty standard – $23,000 annually for a family of four. We have, this morning, more poor people in poverty, in raw numbers, than at any moment in our long history; more, on a percentage basis, than at any time in a quarter century.

But poverty isn’t just a number. It’s a draining of the body, a wound to the soul. Amid such plenty, it is a willful marginalization, an infliction of demeaning indignity.

via In NC, poverty pervades as we evade – Other Views – NewsObserver.com.