JUSTICE WEEK: MENTALLY ILL AND IN JAIL

In partnership with Public Square Media, we continue our special “Justice Week” series with a revealing look at life behind bars for New Yorkers suffering with mental illness. About 15% of the city’s jail population have reportedly been diagnosed with serious mental health problems. Should they be in jail or even under the New York City Department of Correction’s jurisdiction at all?

Aired on May 23, 2019 and August 1, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS,' MENTALLY ILL AND IN JAIL.

OUR SPECIAL JUSTICE WEEK SERIES CONTINUES WITH A REVEALING LOOK AT LIFE BEHIND BARS FOR NEW YORKERS SUFFERING FROM MENTAL ILLNESS.

ROUGHLY 15% OF THE CITY'S JAIL POPULATION REPORTEDLY DIAGNOSED WITH SERIOUS MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS.

SHOULD THEY BE IN JAIL OR UNDER JURISDICTION AT ALL, AND PREPARING FOR LIFE AFTER RIKERS.

WHAT IS THE CITY DOING TO IMPROVE TREATMENT?

JUST SOME OF THE QUESTIONS WE EXPLORE AS THIS SPECIAL EDITION OF 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

Announcer: THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO THIS SPECIAL EDITION OF 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

FOR MANY NEW YORKERS RIKERS ISLAND IS A SYMBOL WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE SYSTEM BUT ALSO A PLACE NEW YORKERS WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES RECEIVE THE HELPS THEY DESPERATELY NEED.

AROUND 1,100 PEOPLE IN THE CITY'S JAIL SYSTEM DIAGNOSED WITH SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS.

ABOUT 16% OF THE TOTAL JAIL POPULATION.

THAT SHARE HAS REPORTEDLY GONE UP AS THE CITY'S OVERALL JAIL POPULATION HAS GONE DOWN.

FOR BETTER OR WORSE, JAILS SERVE AS WHAT SOME CALLED DE FACTO PSYCHIATRIC FACILITIES HERE IN NEW YORK AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

WHILE OFFICIALS SAY THEY ARE SEEING SIGNS OF PROGRESS WHEN IT COMES TO TREATMENT, ADVOCATES FOR THOSE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES REPORTEDLY CALLED ON CITY HALL TO MOVE THIS POPULATION OUT OF CORRECTION DEPARTMENT JURISDICTION.

TONIGHT AS PART OF OUR JUSTICE WEEK COVERAGE WE TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS ISSUE AS MAY de BLASIO PLANS TO CLOSE RIKERS.

OUR ROUNDTABLE OF EXPERTS.

THE DOCTOR FROM CORRECTION'S HEALTH SERVICES RESPONSIBLE FOR MENTAL HEALTH CARE INSIDE THE CITY'S JAILS.

DR. HOMER IS THE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER OF THE CITY'S JAIL SYSTEM AND AUTHOR OF THE NEW BOOK 'LIFE AND DEATH IN RIKERS ISLAND.'

FRANCIS GREENBERGER FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT FOR SOCIAL AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE CENTER AND CEO OF THE REAL ESTATE COMPANY TIME EQUITIES AND JOINED BY SKYPE, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF JUST LEADERSHIP USA, AN ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO CUTTING THE COUNTRY'S CORRECTIONAL POPULATION HOPEFULLY IN HALF BY THE YEAR 2030.

SO WELCOME TO ALL OF YOU.

WE HAVE A LOT TO TALK ABOUT.

YOU CAN TELL FROM THAT INTRODUCTION A LOT IS GOING ON HERE.

I WANT TO START OFF GIVING VIEWERS CONTEXT WITH BIGGER PICTURE ISSUES AND THEN GET INTO THE WHAT THE PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN AND HOPEFULLY WHAT SOLUTIONS MIGHT BE.

SO DEANA, BRING YOU INTO THE CONVERSATION FIRST.

BECAUSE I WANT TO FOCUS ON THIS NOTION OF THE POPULATION IN JAIL.

THE INCARCERATED.

WE'VE HEARD THAT OVER THE DECADES IT'S GONE UP DRAMATICALLY.

AND I KNOW YOUR ORGANIZATION AS I MENTIONED IS DEDICATED TO REDUCING THAT NUMBER.

GIVE US A SENSE OF HISTORY HERE.

HOW AND WHY HAS THE JAIL POPULATION INCREASED SO DRAMATICALLY IN THE UNITED STATES?

THANK YOU.

I THINK NOTICED AT A SIGNIFICANT TIME IN HISTORY WHAT WAS CONSIDERED THE WAR ON DRUG DRASTICALLY INCREASED OUR PRISON POPULATION, AND NOT ONLY DID IT DRASTICALLY INCREASE THE POPULATION, IT DRASTICALLY, DISPARAGINGLY TO THOSE INCAR INCARCERATED.

STARTED TO SEE MORE BLACK AND BROWN INDIVIDUALS, STARTED TO SEE ACTUAL COMMUNITIES DEVASTATED BY INCARCERATION WITH THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM AT THAT TIME, BIPARTISAN KNOWN AS THE WAR ON DRUGS.

WE HAVE TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT STRATEGICSLY SOME OF THE POLICIES THAT LED TO THIS MOMENT AND I THINK ALSO WHEN WE TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH WE HAVE TO SEE ACROSS THE COUNTRY WHEREAS MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITALS AND SERVICES AND RESOURCES FOR MENTAL HEALTH DECREASED IN A COMMUNITY, THE PRISON CORRECTIONS BECAME THE NUMBER ONE MENTAL HEALTH CARE PROVIDER WHERE THESE INDIVIDUALS LANDED AT.

LET ME GET PERSPECTIVES FROM ALL OF YOU ON THIS.

ELIZABETH, I COME TO YOU.

AS YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN THIS AREA, AS A PROFESSIONAL, TALK ABOUT THE INCREASES YOU'VE SEEN?

AND I GUESS MAYBE THE QUESTION IS -- ARE WE SEEING MORE PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM MENTAL ILLNESS WHO ARE BEING INCARCERATED OR JUST RECOGNIZING IT IN A BETTER FASHION NOW?

I THINK IT'S PROBABLY BOTH, AND I ABSOLUTELY AGREE WITH DEANA THE IMPACT OF DRUG LEGISLATION ON INCARCERATION IS PROBABLY THE LARGEST DRIVER OF MASS INCARCERATION AND ALSO I WANT TO ADD IN ADDITION TO CLOSING HOSPITALS AND COMMUNITY CARE, IN THE '70s, CIVIL COMMITMENT STATUTES AND LEGISLATION CAME IN THAT ACTUALLY MADE IT MUCH HARDER FOR PEOPLE TO EVEN GET IN TO THE HOSPITALS THAT WERE OPEN.

SO IT WAS VERY MULTIFACTORIAL.

I THINK AT LEAST IN TERMS OF NEW YORK CITY, WE ARE, AS WE EVOLVE AND ARE BECOMING BETTER AT CARE WE'RE MUCH BETTER AT DIAGNOSIS AND ABLE TO RECOGNIZE SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS IN A WAY WE WEREN'T ABLE TO DO IN THE PAST YEARS AND DECADES.

I'M SURE THAT'S TRUE FOR MOST JAILS.

I THINK IT'S A COMBINATION OF LACK OF ACCESS TO COMMUNITY CARE AND ALSO BETTER IDENTIFICATION.

LAURA, HOW ABOUT YOUR PERSPECTIVE?

I CERTAINLY AGREE WITH BOTH OF THOSE PERSPECTIVES AND THE THING I THINK I WOULD ADD IS THAT AS WE HAVE FORCED PEOPLE OF COLOR, PEOPLE WITH BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS INTO CORRECTIONAL SETTINGS WE'VE EXPOSED THEM TO HEALTH RISKS.

EXPOSED TO PHYSICAL VIOLENCE, SEXUAL VIOLENCE.

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.

MANY HEALTH RISKS ARE CONFERRED TO THEM.

WHEN WE KEEP THE DISCUSSION AROUND INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR HEALTH NEEDS AND WHERE IS THE BEST TREATMENT FOR THEM WE MAY MISS THE FACT THESE PLACES, THESE 5,000 JAILS AND PRISONS AROUND THE COUNTRY HARM AND KILL PEOPLE EVERY DAY.

WE MAKE NEW PROBLEMS, NEW MENTAL HEALTH, PHYSICAL HEALTH PROBLEMS FOR THE PEOPLE WHO PASS THROUGH THERE.

AND LET ME ASK YOU, FOR INSTANCE, YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE ON OUR PANEL HERE, BUT LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION, AND WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS FOR THE CREATION OF YOUR ORGANIZATION AND WHAT YOU DO?

WELL, THROUGH MY SON, A PERSON WHO HAS MENTAL CHALLENGES, AND ENDED UP INVOLVED WITH THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, AND I EXPERIENCED HOW LITTLE REGARD THE SYSTEM HAS FOR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS.

AND I HAD DISCUSSED EXTENSIVELY WITH THE D.A. ON HIS CASE ABOUT HIS MENTAL HEALTH HISTORY, AND THE D.A. WAS SYMPATHETIC BUT SAID HIS HANDS WERE TIED.

SAID, LOOK, IF I COULD GET HIM A SECURED FACILITY, PROTECTION OTHER THAN THAT INCARCERATION.

I WENT ON A FOOL'S AIR RO ERRAN THAT.

MY SON IS NO LONGER INCARCERATED BUT IN TALKING TO A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND MENTAL HEALTH WE RECOGNIZE THERE IS A NEED FOR THIS KIND OF FACILITY AND THAT'S WHAT THE CENTER IS FOCUSED ON.

TRYING TO CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE TO INCARCERATION THAT IS SECURE, THAT D.A.'s AND JUDGES WILL BE COMFORTABLE IN APPROPRIATE KATE REFERRING PEOPLE TO RATHER THAN INCARCERATED THEM.

BEFORE I GET TO SPECIFIC PROBLEMS IN THE VARIOUS FACILITIES IN OUR AREA AND THEN IDEAS FOR SOLUTIONS, LET ME ASK YOU THIS.

HOW BIG A PROBLEM IS IT IN TERMS OF SOLUTIONS HERE?

THAT YOU HAVE TO BE DEALING WITH LEGISLATORS.

LEGISLATORS HAVE CONSTITUENTS, AND MY GUESS IS, IF YOU ASKED, GRABBED TEEN PN PEOPLE ON THE ST MARX JORTY RESPONSE, I'M JUST NOT THAT CONCERNED ABOUT THIS.

THESE PEOPLE ARE INCARCERATED BECAUSE THEY BROKE OUR LAWS.

IF WE CAN HELP THEM, FINE.

IF WE CAN'T, IT'S OKAY WE GOT THEM OFF THE STREETS.

RIGHT?

NOW, I SUSPECT THERE ARE A LOT OF FOLKS THAT ARE GOING TO SAY THAT, AND NOT BAD PEOPLE, BUT THEIR REACTION IS, THEY'RE CRIMINALS.

HELP THEM, GREAT.

WE HAVE A LOT OF OTHER PLACES TO PUT OUR MONEY.

SO DO -- AND DANNA, COME TO YOU FIRST.

DO YOU HEAR THAT?

DO YOU THINK THAT'S AN ISSUE THAT WE AS A SOCIETY HAVE TO GET OVER?

I DO, AND I'LL TELL YOU WHY.

BECAUSE WHEN YOU USE LABELS THAT ARE DEMEANING SUCH AS CRIMINAL, EX-OFFENDER, CONVICT IT CHANGES THE PERFECTIVE THAT THE OTHER PERSON IS THINKING THAT THAT PERSON IS.

WELL, IT'S NOT UNTIL WE HUMANIZE TO THE PERSON STANDING ACROSS FROM YOU IS SEEN AS A HUMAN DO YOU THEN RESPOND TO THEM.

IF YOU DO NOT SEE THEM IN A HUMANISTIC WAY YOUR RESPONSE IS AND UNKNOWN -- UNKNOWN TO YOU WHICH MAY NOT IDENTIFY THE LACK OF HUMAN DIGNITY THAT THAT PERSON EXPERIENCES.

DO WE REALLY WANT EVERYONE IN CAGES OR IN STATES OF CORRECTION WITHOUT A CURE WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WHAT HAPPENS INSIDE THE CORRECTION?

HOMER TALKED ABOUT THE EXTRA TRAUMA AND DIFFERENT THINGS THAT OCCUR INSIDE THESE FACILITIES.

SO LEADERSHIP, THAT IS ONE OF THE, THE MAIN THINGS WE WANT TO MAKE SURE IS ABOUT AWARENESS AND EDUCATION, BECAUSE THE LARGER SOCIETY REALLY THINKS CORRECTIVE IS THE SOLUTION WITHOUT EVEN UNDERSTANDING THE HARM THAT EVEN CORRECTION PLACING ON INDIVIDUAL.

ESPECIALLY AN INDIVIDUAL WITH MENTAL ILLNESS.

MOVE ON TO PARTICULAR PROBLEMS.

ALL RIGHT?

TALK IN TERMS OF LOCAL FACILITIES.

HOMER, YOU MENTIONED A BOOK, YOUR BOOK, FOCUSING ON RIKERS ISLAND.

IF YOU HAD TO ENUMERATE FOR US THE MOST SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS THAT YOU HAVE SEEN, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

THEY WOULD BE THAT PEOPLE WHO WENT TO THE JAIL WERE KILLED IN JAIL, AND THAT THEIR DEATHS AND THEIR INJURIES AND SEXUAL ABUSE WAS A PRODUCT OF RISKS THAT CAME TO THEM.

THESE ARE NOT SIMPLY RANDOM OCCURRENCES OR A FEW BAD APPLES.

THESE SYSTEMS ARE DESIGNED AND RUN HERE IN NEW YORK CITY AND AROUND THE COUNTRY TO CONFER THE RICK OF DEATH, INJURY, SEXUAL ABUSE TO THE PEOPLE WHO PASS THROUGH THEM AND THAT THOSE RISKS ARE NOT METED OUT EVENLY.

THEY'RE ACTUALLY DRIVEN BY RACE, BY BEHAVIORAL HEALTH STATUS.

SOMEBODY WITH MENTAL ILLNESS MIGHT BE PUT IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT THEIR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH WOULD BE EVEN MORE AT RISK AND THEY MAY DIE AND THOSE ARE REAL RISKS THAT THESE SYSTEMS CONFER TO PEOPLE, AND MY CONCERN HERE IN NEW YORK CITY IS THAT WHILE WE HAVE MADE GREAT PROGRESS AND WE HAVE FANTASTIC PSYCHIATRIC CARE WITH DR. FORD AND HER TEAM, WE STILL HAS A SYSTEM THAT CONFERS MANY OF THESE SAME RISKS FOR PEOPLE WHO PASS THROUGH METED OUT BY RACE AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH STATUS AND GENDER OFTEN.

ELIZABETH, WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED EED DOING THIS AND LOOKING --

A WHILE AGO.

FIRST STARTED TAKING A DEEP LOOK INTO ALL OF THIS.

WHAT STRUCK YOU MOST DRAMATICALLY AND PERHAPS WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?

SO THE -- THE THING THAT STRUCK ME CERTAINLY THE IMPACT OF INCARCERATION.

SO THE SPACE OF A JAIL IN THE NEW YORK CITY JAIL IS NOT THERAPEUTIC.

IT IS, INVOKES A LACK OF AUTONOMY, PRIVACY.

YOU'RE AWAY FROM ALL OF YOUR SOCIAL SUPPORTS.

FOR PEOPLE WITH SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS YOU'RE AWAY FROM YOUR TREATMENT SOURCES, YOUR FAMILY.

IT'S A VERY ISOLATED SPACE WITHOUT ANYBODY THERE WHO'S LOOKING OUT FOR YOU.

AND I WAS REALLY STRUCK BY THE INFLUENCES OF THE ENVIRONMENT ON PEOPLE, ON EVERYBODY, FRANKLY, WHO'S INCARCERATED AND ALSO THE STAFF AS I GET MORE INTO IT.

I THINK AT AN UNDISCUSSED TOPIC IS REALLY THE IMPACT OF WORKING IN A JAIL.

AND HOW OVER TIME THAT CAN SHIFT ONE'S ATTITUDES.

THAT THERE'S INSTITUTIONALIZATION.

ACTUALLY IT'S IF YOU ARE IN A SPACE, CONTROLLED FOR A LONG ENOUGH PERIOD OF TIME YOU LOSE THE ABILITY TO MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS, TO THINK CRITICALLY ABOUT THINGS.

TO BE SUPPORTIVE, EVEN.

AND I DON'T THINK THAT ONLY HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHO ARE INCARCERATED.

IT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHO WORK IN THESE SETTINGS AND WHO ARE FIGHTING FOR WHAT'S RIGHT FOR SO LONG, AND IF YOU DON'T SEE ANY CHANGE OR ENOUGH CHANGE QUICKLY FROM THOSE FIGHTS, EVENTUALLY PEOPLE JUST GIVE UP.

AND THAT IS, I THINK, A REAL PROBLEM WE'RE FACING IN OUR JAILS.

DEANA, YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE, I SHOULD MENTION.

YOU SPENT TIME INCARCERATED.

IT CERTAINLY INFORMED YOU AND GUIDED YOU IN THE WORK THAT YOU DO NOW.

WHAT ABOUT THAT NOTION?

THAT DR. FORD MENTIONED?

THE CONCEPT OF INSTITUTIONALIZATION AND THE IMPACT IT HAS NOT ONLY ON THOSE INCARCERATED BUT THOSE WORKING WITHIN THE FACILITY?

SO THE STRANGE PART HAVING BEEN A PERSON WHO HAS BEEN INCARCERATED, BUT ALSO A PERSON AFTER MY INCARCERATION LUCKY ENOUGH AND FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO WORK IN A MAXIMUM SECURITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS IN IT STATE OF INDIANA, I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THIS, BEING INSTITUTIONALIZED, WHAT YOU'LL SEE ESPECIALLY WITH CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS, BECAUSE WHEN YOU LOOK AT HOW THE STATE TREATS CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS, IT'S ONE OF THE LOWEST JOBS THAT DOESN'T TAKE A LOT OF EDUCATION OR REQUIREMENT TO GET IN.

ONCE IN THERE, THE LACK OF TRAINING AND ABILITY TO EVEN DEAL WITH THE POPULATION, THAT IS NOT ACTUALLY GIVEN TO OFFICERS'S SOME IN CASES WE'RE STARTING TO SEE PEOPLE, WE'RE GOING TO TRAIN YOU, OR MENTAL HEALTH, IF WE HAVE A THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITY, BUT TRADITIONALLY THAT WASN'T GIVEN.

CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS HAVE A HIGH RATE OF SUICIDE.

THEY HAVE A HIGH RATE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

YOU ACTUALLY SEE THE SAME BEHAVIOR IN THE INDIVIDUALS THEY'RE SUPERVISING BEING DEMONSTRATED WITHIN THEM AS WELL.

SO I REALLY BELIEVE AS WITH ANY CAREER OR ANY SITUATION YOU'RE IN, HAVING PROPER PROCTORS, PROPER TRAINING ITRAINING, SUP CHUNT.

I HAVE DEFINITELY SEEN STAFF INSTITUTIONALIZED TO THE CORRECTION IN THE WAY THEY EVEN TREAT THE INDIVIDUALS, BECAUSE THEY'RE, IN A SENSE, IN A POWER DYNAMIC POSITION, AND ALSO WE HAVE TO REMEMBER, NORMALLY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS PRISONS ARE LOCATED IN RURAL AREAS, AND THEY ARE THE EMPLOYER OF CHOICE IN SOME OF THOSE AREAS.

PEOPLE DON'T EVEN HAVE A CHOICE EVEN WITH COLLEGE DEGREES AND DIFFERENT THINGS ARE WHERE THEY RESIDE.

THIS MAY BE THE ONLY EMPLOYER THAT HAS BENEFITS AND DIFFERENT THINGS OF THAT NATURE, AND TO TOP IT OFF, WE HAVE TO ACTUALLY TAKE A LOOK AT, AS WELL, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE FIRST TIME THEY MAY SEE BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE, IS IN A PRISON SETTING, BECAUSE OF THEIR RURAL AREA OF POPULATION.

THAT REINFORCES OTHER, OTHER IDEAS THAT ARE KEPT.

AND ONE OTHER QUICK QUESTION TO ASK ABOUT OBSTACLES AND SWITCH IN THE NOTION OF SOLUTIONS.

I MENTIONED AN OBSTACLE THAT BEING PUBLIC SAYING, YOU KNOW WHAT, INCARCERATED FOR A REASON, AND IF WE HELP THEM THAT'S GREAT BUT WE SHOULDN'T PUT ALL OUR RESOURCES INTO IT.

TALKED ABOUT THAT.

WHAT ABOUT, FOR INSTANCE, MAYBE YOU SAW OR HEARD THIS.

WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENT, HEY, THE FOLKS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS ARE GETTING MUCH BETTER CARE AND TREATMENT NOW THAN THEY WOULD HAVE THEY WERE OUT ON THE STREET OR IN THEIR HOMES OR WHERE THEY WERE.

SO YOU KNOW, THEY SHOULD BE APPRECIATIVE OF IT?

HAVE YOU COME ACROSS THAT OR HAVE YOU COME ACROSS THAT?

I ACTUAL WILL HAD A CONVERSATION WHEN I WAS DEALING WITH MY SON WITH A FRIEND WHO'S A HIGH OFFICIAL IN THE DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK, AND I SAID TO HIM, LOOK, I KNOW FROM A SOCIETAL POINT OF VIEW MAYBE IT WOULD BE BETTER IF HE SPENT SOME TIME IN, MAYBE THAT WOULD STRAIGHTEN HIM OUT.

HOW SHOULD I THINK ABOUT THIS AS A PARENT?

AND HE SAID IT'S NOT BETTER FOR SOCIETY, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT IT MAY NOT HELP PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM PS, MAKES IT WORSE.

98% OF THE PEOPLE ARE RELEASED FROM PRISON EVENTUALLY AND COME OUT WORSE THAN THEY WENT IN.

THAT'S NOT GOOD FOR SOCIETY.

SO HE WAS ARGUING THAT NOT ONLY FROM AN INDIVIDUAL POINT OF VIEW, BUT EVEN FROM A SOCIETAL POINT OF VIEW, THAT THIS KIND OF REHABILITATION WAS NOT BEING SUCCESSFULLY ADMINISTERED IN THE PRISONS, AND A DIFFERENT SOLUTION NEEDED TO BE FOUND.

AND I THINK THAT THERE ARE, YOU KNOW -- OUR SYSTEM, NOTWITHSTANDING FOR MANY PEOPLE GOODWILL INVOLVED, WAS SET UP, YOU KNOW, RECIDIVISM RATES ARE EXTRAORDINARY.

PEOPLE WHO CAN'T SURVIVE PAROLE, WHICH IS ANOTHER VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THE SYSTEM.

TAKE A MENTALLY ILL PERSON WITH TROUBLE WITH IMPULSIVE BEHAVIORS AND PUT HIM IN MORE AND MORE RESTRICTIVE SETTINGS.

I MEAN --

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE IN PRISON FOR TECHNICAL VIOLATION OF PAROLE, AS OPPOSED TO HAVING COMMITTED A, ANOTHER SERIOUS EVENT?

THE BIG QUESTION IS, ARE WE GOING TO HAVE A SYSTEM THAT JUST TRIES TO LOCK PEOPLE UP AND THROW THEM AWAY FOREVER?

OR IS IT A REHABILITATIVE SYSTEM?

I WAS DEALING WITH A COLLEGE STUDENT RECENTLY ARRESTED FOR A DRUG CHARGE.

WASN'T INCARCERATED, BUT NOW SHE CAN'T CONTINUE IN HER COLLEGE, BECAUSE SHE CAN'T GET HER FEDERAL MONEY BECAUSE OF A RULE IF YOU COMMITTED A CRIME -- SHE HAD SOME RECREATIONAL DRUGS IN THE CAR AND GOT STOPPED BY THE POLICE.

WE'RE RUINING A LIFE.

AND, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A STATISTIC.

I DON'T KNOW, HOMER MIGHT KNOW BETTER THAN I, BUT I THINK I HEARD 60 MILLION PEOPLE IN AMERICA DOES BEEN ARRESTED.

THIS IS NOT A SMALL CONSTITUENCY ANYMORE.

THIS IS A GIANT CONSTITUENCY.

IF THAT NUMBER'S CORRECT, AND I DON'T KNOW WHETHER IT IS.

LET'S --

IT'S A SIGNIFICANT PART OF OUR POPULATION.

WHATEVER THE NUMBER, WE KNOW IT'S SIGNIFICANT.

TALKED ABOUT PROBLEMS.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SOLUTIONS.

RIGHT.

SO ESSENTIALLY IF YOU GO T T BE KING OR QUEEN FOR A DAY AND SAY, AS OF TOMORROW, THIS IS WHAT WE'RE DOING, LET'S, ELIZABETH START WITH YOU, HOMER, COME TO YOU AND WORK OUR WAY AROUND.

WHAT'S ON THE TOP OF YOUR LIST?

WHAT -- I GUESS IT'S TWO SEPARATE QUESTIONS.

WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING?

WHAT CAN WE DO?

I DON'T HAVE A ONE AT THE TOP OF THE LIST.

I'M SORRY ABOUT THAT.

THERE ARE A BUNCH AT THE TOP OF THE LIST.

SOME ACTUALLY WE ARE DOING.

I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT WE SHOULD TRY TO BE AS REHABILITATIVE AND THERAPEUTIC AS POSSIBLE WHEREVER THESE PATIENTS ARE, EVEN IF IN A JAIL.

SO CERTAINLY UP AT THE TOP IS TO ALWAYS THINK OF THE PATIENT FIRST.

WHAT IS HELPFUL, BEST FOR THEM?

FRANKLY, IF ALL DECISIONS COME OUT OF THAT ONE GUIDING PRINCIPLE GOOD THINGS CAN HAPPEN AND WE'RE DOING IN THE JAIL.

I COULD GIVE YOU EXAMPLES OF THOSE.

I THINK THE ENVIRONMENT OF CARE IS A CRITICAL THING THAT HAS TO BE CHANGED AND THE CITY IS, AS YOU KNOW, MAKING EFFORTS TO DO THAT.

RIKERS ISLAND IS ISOLATED, IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO GET TO FOR ATTORNEYS, FOR FAMILIES, FOR ADVOCATES.

LEARNED THERE'S NOTHING GOOD ABOUT THAT.

AND THE PHYSICAL SPACE MAKE AS HUGE DIFFERENCE.

YEAH I.

THINK THAT'S --

HOMER, YOU?

WHAT'S YOUR LIST?

I THINK THAT WE NEED TO BE HONEST.

WE STILL NEED TO BE HONEST ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS BEHIND BARS AND BE MUCH MORE HONEST ABOUT THE HEALTH RISKS THAT ARE CONFERRED.

WE SHOULD KNOW HOW MANY OF THE DEATHS THAT OCCUR IN RIKERS AND AROUND THE COUNTRY IN JAIL ARE PREVENTIBLE OR ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE JAIL ITSELF.

WE DON'T KNOW THAT.

THAT DOESN'T GET REPORTED.

MORE BROADLY, I THINK WHILE WE CLOSE THE APERTURE, WHILE WE HAVE FEWER PEOPLE GOING IN TO JAILS AND PRISONS, WHICH WE MUST DO, CLOSING RIKERS IS PART OF THAT.

WE MUST ALSO INVEST IN COMMUNITY RESOURCES.

I DON'T MEAN BIG TOWERS, BIG IN-PATIENT CENTERS, MANY OF THE COMMUNITY RESOURCES DESTROYED THROUGH URBAN RENEWAL, BEFORE THE WAR ON DRUGS EVEN CAME AROUND, AND THEN CERTAINLY DURING THE WAR ON DRUGS, COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH, EDUCATIONAL AND VOCATIONAL SERVICES.

WE HAVE TO TAKE THE DOLLARS THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SPENDING ON THIS JUSTICE SYSTEM AND INVEST THEM THERE.

THAT PART OF THIS EQUATION IS OFTEN ABSENT.

THE DISCUSSION OF SIMPLY REFORMING BAIL, FEWER JAILS IT TAKES MONEY AND INVESTMENT, AND JUST AS WHEN WE CLOSED ALL THE INT PATIENT MENTAL HEALTH CENTERS, IN THE '70s AND '80s, WE NEED TO INVEST SO THEY DON'T HAVE LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTACT.

I SAW A NUMBER, STAGGERING, ABOUT WHAT IT COSTS US FOR A SINGLE PERSON WHO IS INCARCERATED IN RIKERS ISLAND FOR A YEAR.

IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY, MORE THAN $300,000?

AND DEANA IS SHAKING HER HEAD YES.

I'M RIGHT OR CLOSE ON THE NUMBER.

NOW, HERE'S MY QUESTION.

IF RIKERS GETS CLOSED WITHIN THE TIME SCHEDULE SUGGESTED AND THERE ARE FOUR NEW FACILITIES THAT ARE ESTABLISHED, DO YOU THINK THAT THE VARIOUS LEGISLATORS HAVE THE APPETITE TO SAY, WE'RE GOING TO SAVE A LOT OF MONEY, BUT LET'S JUST NOT PUT THAT MONEY IN, YOU KNOW, IN THE COFFERS AND SIT ON IT.

LET'S REDIRECT THAT MONEY AND A SIGNIFICANT PORTION IN THE NEW FACILITIES, FOR INSTANCE, FOR SOME OF THE THINGS THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT?

FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE INCARCERATED WHO HAVE MENTAL ILLNESS.

DO ALL OF YOU SEE AN APPETITE TO DO THAT, THAT WE CAN MAKE PROGRESS, WE CAN REDIRECT THAT MONEY AND MAKE PROGRESS EITHER IN NEW FACILITIES OR TRANSFERS TO HOSPITALS OR WHATEVER THE SUGGESTION IS GOING TO BE?

ABOUT TWO MINUTES LEFT.

ASK EACH OF YOU TO WEIGH IN QUICKLY, IF YOU WOULD.

DEANNA, DO YOU SEE AN APPETITE FOR PEOPLE REDIRECTING THE MONEY INTO THESE AREAS?

YES.

AND NOT ONLY IN THOSE AREAS IN FACILITIES BUT ALSO IN THE COMMUNITIES MOST DEVASTATED BY INCARCERATION WHO ACTUALLY INVEST IN THOSE COMMUNITIES, AS COMMUNITIES THAT THRIVE ACTUALLY HAVE INDIVIDUALS THAT THRIVE.

ELIZABETH, YOU SEE IT?

I'M WINTNESSING IT IN DESIGN OF NEW JAILS.

A LOT OF THOUGHT AND ATTENTION BEING MADE TO MAKING THEM TEAR P THERAPEUTIC AND BETTER ABLE TO MEET THE NEEDS.

YOU'RE FAIRLY OPTIMISTIC BASED UPON WHAT YOU'RE SEEING THAT IN TERMS OF THINGS SUCH AS DESIGN AND WILLINGNESS AND ABILITY TO PROVIDE STAFF THAT WE'RE MOVING FORWARD?

I AM OPTIMISTIC.

AND ACTUALLY COULDN'T BE IN MY JOB IF I WASN'T OPTIMISTIC BUT I THINK IT'S ALSO REALISTIC OPTIMISM.

ALL RIGHT.

AND FOR INSTANCE, HOW ABOUT YOU, YOUR PERSPECTIVE?

YOU KNOW WHEN I STARTED LEARNING ABOUT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM I WENT ON A LISTENING TOUR AND TALKED WITH A LOT OF PEOPLE FROM INMATES TO HEADS OF INSTITUTIONS, AND THERE SEEMED TO BE A LOT OF UNANIMOUS OPINION THE SYSTEM WASN'T WORKING GIVING THE IMPETUS TO CLOSE RIKERS AND I THINK THERE'S BROAD APPRECIATION TO THE FACT OUR PUBLIC FOLES THAT'S INFORMED OUR ACTIONS FOR A LONG TIME HAVE LED US TO A BAD PLACE.

AND THAT THERE IS AN IMPETUS FOR CHANGE.

WE'RE SEEING IT IN NEW YORK, WE'RE SEEING IT IN FLORIDA, WE'RE SEEING IT IN CALIFORNIA THERE'S A RECOGNITION THAT SOMETHING NEW HAS TO HAPPEN HERE.

I GUESS IF YOU LOOK AT IT, BEFORE YOU GET A SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM YOU HAVE TO RECOGNIZE A PROBLEM EXISTS.

ABSOLUTELY.

SOUNDS LIKE AT LEAST WE ARE THERE.

LOOK, THIS HAS BEEN A VERY REVEALING AND THOUGHTFUL DISCUSSION.

I CERTAINLY APPRECIATE ALL OF YOU.

WEIGHING IN AND OFFERING YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS, AND PERHAPS AS WE MOVE FORWARD WE CAN TALK A LITTLE MORE WITH ALL OF YOU.

BUT AGAIN, OUR THANKS FOR ALL THE WORK THAT YOU'RE DOING AND THE THOUGHT YOU'RE PUTTING INTO THIS.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US, AND A REMINDER FOR ALL OF YOU, JUSTICE WEEK WRAPS UP TOMORROW NIGHT RIGHT HERE ON 'METROFOCUS' AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU THEN.

HAVE A GOOD NIGHT.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY -- CORPORATE FUNDING FOR 'METROFOCUS' WAS PROVIDED BY MUTUAL OF AMERICA, YOUR RETIREMENT COMPANY.

AND BY PSE&G, SERVING CUSTOMERS, STRENGTHENING THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY AND INVESTING IN THE FUTURE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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