OverCriminalized profiles three promising and less expensive alternatives to incarceration that may actually change the course of people’s lives. It’s time to roll back mass criminalization and focus on what works. SUBSCRIBE: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=bravenewfilms SIGN THE PETITION: http://www.bravenewfilms.org/endhomelesshate HOST A FREE SCREENING: http://bravenewfilms.org/screenings
It seems that for almost every social problem that pops up, we turn to the criminal justice system. Suffering from mental illness? Here’s a cell. Struggling with drug dependency? Let’s throw you in handcuffs. Sleeping on the street? Here’s an arrest record.
And if you are a person of color, the criminal justice crackdown can be even worse.
How could it possibly make sense to saddle police officers and prison wardens with sole responsibility for helping people get a roof over their head? Or to task lawyers and judges with treating mental illness or helping people get sober? Simply making problems into “crimes” is just making things worse.
It’s 2015. We know better. Not only is all of this inhumane, it’s expensive. When our tax dollars are picking up the tab, it makes sense to put funds where they will make the biggest impact. Housing programs help solve homelessness. Treatment helps stabilize mental illness and end drug dependency. Arrests and jail cells just waste time and money.
It’s simple. Diversion programs work better than incarceration – for everyone. In cities like Seattle, San Antonio, and Salt Lake City, we see that successful solutions are a viable option to help end serious social problems. These services alter the course of people’s lives in a positive way and save taxpayers huge amounts of money. We cannot continue to isolate and imprison people who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or homelessness. We must treat them with compassion and care to better serve our communities and our pocketbooks.
It's time we got serious about pulling our money out of incarceration and putting it into systems that foster healthy communities. Hundreds of thousands of people are locked up not because of any dangerous behavior, but because of problems like mental illness, substance use disorders, and homelessness, which should be dealt with outside the criminal justice system. Services like drug treatment and affordable housing cost less and can have a better record of success.
This summer, news stories from around the nation provided the American people with a litany of issues about how police officers respond to community members. By highlighting programs like Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), and Housing First, OverCriminalized explores the possibility of ending incarceration for millions of Americans who, through successful intervention programs, can put their lives back on track.
OverCriminalized focuses on the people who find themselves being trafficked through this nation’s criminal justice system with little regard for their humanity and zero prospects for actual justice. They are victims of unwillingness to invest in solving major social problems, and the consequent handling off of that responsibility to the police, the courts, and the prisons. They are the mentally ill, the homeless, and the drug addicted. Sometimes they are all three.
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Quick facts on over criminalization:
• Approximately 20 % of state prisoners and 21 % of local jail detainees have a “recent history” of a mental health condition.
• Approximately 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
• In 2012, it was estimated that 23.1 million Americans needed treatment for problems that related to drugs or alcohol.
• Pew Research finds that 67% of Americans say that the government should focus more on providing treatment for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Just 26% think the government’s focus should be on prosecuting users of such hard drugs.
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