Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: Stop inhumane treatment and abuse of prison inmates with mental disabilities.
A shocking trend has been sweeping the United States prison system: the abuse of inmates with mental disorders. According to a Human Rights Watch report, an unprecedented amount of staff working in jails and prisons have used unnecessary and malicious force on prisoners with mental disabilities, and escaped punishment for doing so.
Correctional officials, guards and other prison staff have allegedly doused mentally ill inmates with chemical sprays, shocked them with electric stun devices, strapped them to chairs and beds for days at a time, and have even damaged their internal organs, leaving them traumatized or, worse yet, contributed to the prisoners’ deaths. Understandably, prison staff, especially guards and correction officials, are authorized to use force to maintain safety and security. However, the violent and inhumane treatment of prison inmates with mental disabilities, many of them suffering from serious illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, is uncalled for and should only be used as a last resort, never as futile punishment.
Additionally, prison staff have responded with unnecessary violence when prisoners display behavior that is typical of their mental health issues, even when the action is non-threatening misconduct, such as using profane language or shaking a cell door. When force is used in this regard, it constitutes abuse that violates fundamental human rights laws against torture or degradation of another human being. It also brings to light the failure of correctional officers and other prison staff to accommodate and respond appropriately to the needs of inmates with mental disorders.
To date, there are at least 360,000 men and women with serious mental health issues serving time in federal and state facilities. For the first time in the history of the United States, prisons are quickly taking the place of mental health institutions, with as much as 40 percent of the prison population being represented by individuals with mental health problems. Due to low funding and lack of political support, the mentally ill lack access to mental health professionals and are often misdiagnosed, perpetuating the cycle of violence and inhuman treatment by inadequate and uneducated correctional officers and prison staff.
The unnecessary abuse of mentally ill inmates must end now. Sign the petition to urge President Barack Obama to reform the rights of the mentally ill and incarcerated, and improve conditions for those with mental disabilities.
Dear President Obama,
An alarming trend has been sweeping the prison system in the United States: the unnecessary abuse of mentally ill inmates. To date, more than 40 percent of the prison population is made up of individuals with mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, major depression and personality disorders.
According to a Human Rights Watch Report, correctional officers and other prison staff are responsible for using electric stun devices on inmates, dousing inmates with harmful and potentially life threatening chemical sprays, and even damaging internal organs by violently beating them. What’s worse is that the use of this unnecessary force has even caused or contributed to mentally ill prisoners’ deaths.
This cycle of abuse must end now. Prisoners with mental disorders deserve proper access to stabilizing medications and counseling sessions with mental health professionals. They also deserve to be treated empathically by prison staff. These abuses no only traumatize mentally ill inmates, but aggravate their symptoms, making their mental health treatment more difficult, or virtually impossible.
I urge you to reform the rights of the mentally ill and incarcerated, and impose new laws to help prison staff better deal with these inmates.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Rubu1986