Unfortunately, very often people with addiction or mental health issues are winding up in jail instead of in treatment. At H&H Law Center we see it all the time, someone with a serious mental issue acts in a way that they would ordinarily not act, and ends up being convicted of a crime and serves time. In Maine we see this come up time and time again with heroin addiction. The problem with that approach is clear, jails simply aren’t equipped to handle the underlying causes of the behavior, the root cause isn’t treated. In the state of Maine, and all over the country, we need to take a closer look at how we are treating, both socially and medically, these people with sometimes debilitating psychological problems. We need to ask ourselves, are we treating them with the compassion with which we would want to be treated, or our children, or our friends?
Watch the video to see Devens Hamlen’s take on the issue.
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The transcript of Devens’ video has been included below:
Are Prisons The Right Solution For Heroin Addiction In Maine?
I think from a criminal defendant or criminal attorney’s perspective, the concern is that there aren’t a lot of options for people when they have an addiction and they are committing crimes to stop that cycle and stop committing crimes when they end up in jail, when we know that jail is just sort of a placeholder. It’s not going to help anyone.
The same with mental health issues. There are plenty of people sitting in jail who have serious mental health issues. They wouldn’t be there but for their mental health issues that are causing them to act out. Maybe they’re not taking their medications, maybe their medications are mis-prescribed. But then the jail’s left being a mental health facility, which they’re not equipped to do. And, I appreciate that. They have medical, but they are only going to go so far in terms of helping someone with their mental health issues.
There are a few places in Maine that are state funded that you can go, but the wait is significant there, and there’s a low chance that someone’s ever going to get a bed in a facility that’s going to treat mental health. It’s a same problem, it’s just a different disease, whether it’s addiction or mental health, PTSD, bi-polar, those diseases unfortunately make people act in ways they wouldn’t normally act otherwise.
If you don’t get to the root problem, or root causes of why they are doing something, you’re never going to solve the problem. We would be very happy if more money and more resources were directed toward mental health or substance abuse treatment centers that are state funded, because the truth of the matter is a lot of these people don’t have the money, they don’t have the ability to pay the twenty thousand dollars that it would take to go to a high end rehab center in California or Florida or where ever it is. And so there needs to be some state funding directed towards treatment centers.