Mental Health Care vs. Jail

We need to rethink our criminal justice policies because 65% of kids in Florida’s juvenile justice system are developmentally disabled!!!!

My local paper ran a story on disabled teens in our juvenile justice system. What I read infuriated me!

It turns out that 65% of kids in juvenile system are developmentally disabled. Instead of providing services to these kids, we are putting them in jail.

Why?  The state of FL has only 350 beds statewide for delinquent youths with cognitive impairments or severe mental illness. When those beds are used up, the kids end up in detention without the care they need.

Why do we have inadequate resources for developmentally disabled kids? Because we refuse to fund mental health care.

What we are willing to fund is prisons. Specifically, private prisons.  Private prisons who lobby our legislators to guarantee we put people in jail so that the private prison companies can make enough money to make running our jails economically successful. In other words, they need to make a profit so we put developmentally disabled kids in jail.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if the public health sector and the mental health sector were privatized maybe then they would have a lobby large enough to convince our elected officials to spend our tax dollars actually helping instead of just locking people up for profit.

What is clear is that our current system of incarceration for profit is bad for society, bad for the kids who need help and bad for their families.

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