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join the discussion...What are your thoughts after viewing The New Asylums? How can America address the growing issue of mentally ill people serving time in prisons and jails?


Mr. Wilkinson of the Ohio DOC is to be commended for his approaches toward this very serious problem in our country.

Paul C. Medici
Providence, Rhode Island


While I missed the program I have long - since 1987 been a supporter and member of NAMI. I deplore the placement of the mentally ill in prisons but have seen absolutely no moneys or organizational efforts to find an alternative to those who are very violent or distraught.

I find myself as a parent of a schizophrenic and a bi-polar-manic depressive unable to determine any direct funding by the federal or state - in my case Vermont - to establish the halfway houses therapy and training that the mentally ill require to even begin to actuate their lives. Until a person who is ill receives a combination of state federal and community funding along with family help the prisons will remain the "dumping ground" for those who disturb the peace or even threaten the safety of the community.

anne montgomery
williamsville, vermont


I was extremely moved by this program and share the concerns of others who recognize that our prisons are not equipped to serve the needs of our mentally ill population.

When our state hospitals began to close in the 1970s policy makers believed that community care would benefit patients and lead to an inclusive supportive and healthy environment.

Sadly in a very short time support for these community based programs has eroded and created tremendous strains on communities and families of the mentally ill.

Let us all remember the inadequacies (and horrors) of state hospitals and work to make more robust and successful the system of community support. As your program has shown it is frightening to consider the alternative.

John Mayer
Portsmouth, NH


I am a guarded and fearful mother of a high functioning Autistic Bi-Polar son who is 17 yrs old going on 6-11 yrs old because of vast cognitive delays. He is currently in a State run Child Residential Treatment Facility after years of disabilities and psychotic episodes that placed him in and out of hospitals. As much as we are committed to retaining him in our home this step was taken in his behalf to adjust medications and hopefully avert his entering into any prison systems that seem to be proliferating in the US.

But the current government administration has cut funding at the federal state county and city levels across our nation. The wonderful workers within these mental health facilities and systems are stretched to the limits under paid and even themselves under trained because staff ratios do not permit training time.

Health Care helped out very little in regards to Mental Health Benefits before these cuts and parity laws are only now coming into the picture to force insurance companies to up their commitments to the metally ill.

Now DDD Waiver recipients such as our son are being cut from their benefits. And what our family has determined from these events is that the current government has chosen to support wars overseas. Sadly these wars create increases of mental stress and illness not only for individual citizens of those countries but to individuals within our troops and their families that remain stateside. Yet what treatments are available to them after they serve?

I hope you sent a signed copy of your program to our nations Chief of Staff and strongly encouraged him to watch it with his domestic policy staff members. Domestic policies supports and education of the treatment of the mentally ill are in crisis and the administration needs a wake up call!

This administration should not pass the buck off onto overwhelmed prisons or the overwhelmed mentally ill who are already isolated!

D Lazo
Seattle, Washington


As always wonderful work PBS - I feel that this is but a tip of a huge problem. MENTAL HEALTH-

What will it take for this nation this world to realize if we can just begin to realize that if we can begin to understand and support mental health research - so many aspects of social problems can be truthfully resolved. All we do not is apply bandaids to cover the social problems that afflict society.

Joe Ramirez
San Antonio, Texas


You showed an excellent documentary of the mentally ill being placed in prisons throughtout the US. I work with the adult mental health population as a clinical social worker. I also teach a social welfare and policy course to prospective social workers/human service workers. This very topic is discussed in my class especially with the upcoming closing of the Harrisburg State Hospital by the end of this year.

If the community cannot provide the needed resources to those people who will be discharged I believe prisons will be expected to house more and more people who suffer with mental illness. I was impressed and intrigued with the New Asylums. I plan to purchase the video to share with my students. I hope that many politicians and managed care company reps who watched this show were moved enough to take action against mistreatment of the mentally ill. Thanks for covering this particular topic.

Ruby Porr
Middletown, Pa


Thank you very much for this episode of Frontline.

As my heart goes out to each of the men in the film I want to take this opportunity to highlight that severe mental illness cuts across gender race ethnicity...

I live in remission with the thought that each day of blessed sanity could possibly be my last and feel maybe I should just be glad for what I have now. Then I watch Frontline and realize that unless I take a stand with these men I will never be free either.

J. Moore
Keller, TX


I want to express deep appreciation for all of the people who helped make a tv show regarding the issue of mentally ill people in US prisons. Thank you. I have spent a total of three years locked up in psychiatric cells...that means three years in cells with almost no human contact.

I could write for hours about my experience. But I feel obligated to raise some issues that do not seem to be discussed.

It is absolutely wrong to mistreat "mentally ill" human beings. But we as a society need to look more deeply. I do not believe in the very concept of mentall illness. I was raped by both my mother and father for years...I do not have a chemical problem in my brain. The only problem I have is the deep unrelenting pain from the abuse I suffered. And all the mental helath system offers me are pills. Look is someone who has been raped...are they "ill" because they have deep intense feelings of rage despair and terror? Is a black man mentally ill if he does not know how to function in a nation that is terribly racist (look at the stats that show people of color die earlier then white people that they are much much more likely to spend time incarcerated then white people that the schools in black and hispanic neighborhoods are so underfunded and ineffective that many youth do not ever finish highschool) are people of color "ill" because of their intense emotions? No no no.

I have not heard nearly enough discussion regarding racism and classism in relation to mental health institutions and jails and prisons. Do people really feel like they are healthy if they need to take pills for the rest of their lives? Do the people who watched this Frontline program really buy into the drug companies belief that all we need are pills? Do people have the courage to challenge the very concept of mentall illness and mental health. If we are not willing to challenge those concepts then we are actually not dedicated to making the world a humane place...we are interested in just quieting people.

Oakland, California


thank you so much for bringing THE NEW ASYLUMS program to the public attention. I am the caregiver of my oldest child (47) who has bi-polar disease. It has been a year of survival by sheer grit on both our part. He has been in jail a different times of this year...

We have been through hell this past year. I am an active member in the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill here in Northern Michigan and try to get further educated in mental illness and encourage others who have loved ones suffering from same to join us. I had an editor of a local newspaper in Petoskey tell me that Mental Illness was not newsworthy which i found to be so totally appalliing to me. Thank you for the opportunity to vent just a little of what my family has experienced. I encourage you to continue coverage of mental illness suicide of our loved ones including a large population of young people suffering from various mental illnesses. God bless you in your work.

gretta walton
east jordan, michigan


I watched the program with fear that I would see the neglect and dare I say abuse of prisoners with mental health disease.

However what I saw while watching this program was a group of professionals who were doing the best that they could with what they have. I saw people who signed on as wardens acting as interns I saw Doctors acting as advocates and I saw mentally ill people acting as prisoners.

Now what I want to see is our goverment to stop acting as if being mentally ill is a lifestyle choice and not a disease





What a powerful piece good job. As a Case Manager for mental health consumers in New York City this program hit home. ...

As a first hand soilder in this war I see the progress of supportive housing programs. With out the care of a Case Manager Psychiatrist and Therapist many of those who receive care would be on TV programs telling their horrors from behind bars.

I say at the end of the day we need to increase the faith-based intitiatives that have helped many mentally ill person but convicts in general. Many people can testify that having a "GOD" in your life grounds you and gives you faith of better days. I hope that anyone who watched that program will be motivated to write a letter to the local politician and encourage them to stop the cuts in Medicaid funding which will be transferred over to higher cost when we lock them up for "Criminal Behavior".

Rico Thompson
Bronx, NY


I am so glad Frontline did this wonderful piece on our "BROKEN MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM". I have been working in this field in the acute setting at numerous hopitals for 18 years. It saddens me the VERY short stays that these very sick individuals receive when in the past they would live in institutions. It is a revolving door. They come in for MAYBE a week or 2 get somewhat stabilized and then back out into the community to a Personal Care Home for MAYBE a month and then back to the Hospital. SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

K Hall
Stafford, Texas


As a California Department of Corrections professional who has worked 3 1/2 years as a State Correctional Officer inside a level 3 prison and who is now currently working as a seasoned California Parole Agent of eight years after watching your New Asylums broadcast one agonizing recurring thought kept jumping through my mind.

How manymore years and how many more millions and millions of dollars will be lost to fund an illegal war overseas and how many more millions and millions of dollars will be spent on elite overseas corporate expansionism until americans come to realize how critical components of our internal government systems such as department of corrections systems are falling apart at the seems.

It is a tragedy in the worst sense that mentally ill inmates and parolees do not have the care facilities to help them. I cannot even begin to relate to you my horror stories having worked with inner city LA San Diego and now even northern CA offenders in my never ending day to day struggles working as a CA Parole Agent.

Thank-you for your broadcast. It is the people of Frontline and the people involved with the making of this broadcast that will eventually move citizens to take political action to change a once great government system that has become corrupted beyond belief thanks to corporate greed such as the Enron scandal that competely ripped the guts out of California.

Sorry about the run on sentences and typos but I was too angered and teary eyed. I had to type what immediately came to my head.

Ken Palmer
Yuba City, California


After watching your program I was terrified at the current system for psychiatric care in this country. With an ever growing number of mentally ill people in this country how can our administration justify closing so many psychiatric hospitals? The client to therapist ratio is astonishing with many states equaling 50 clients to one therapist. Thank you for enlighting me and encouraging me to fight for change in our current system. Prisons for the mentall ill is something that would have occurred in the dark ages and should not be accepted now.

Brian C


Thank you so much for an amazingly powerful presentation of the problem facing every state. I can only add that you missed the women with mental illness who are in prison in proportionately higher numbers than males with even more complex persistent pathology.

Robert Powitzky Ph.D.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma



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posted may 10, 2006

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