Well, I am home from my “trip of a lifetime to Israel.” The trip did not include tours of jails or mental health facilities but two days after I arrived, Haaretz, Israel’s Leading Daily Newspaper, in English, had a front page article. The title, Tel Aviv police backtrack, will investigate alleged gang rape on public beach. The article has some very strange twists and turns but the alleged victim of the gang rape has reportedly “received psychiatric care in the past, is reportedly in a difficult mental state, and had recently started drinking again.”
I found myself reading this article very closely, realizing that an American newspaper probably would not report as much about the victim as this Israeli newspaper did. Then I turned to page 2 of this same paper and 1000 prisoners were on a hunger strike in Israeli jails. Just two months ago there was a man in Israel’s Megiddo prison who was trying to get a release for medical treatment due to schizophrenia. The article mentions 35 other prisoners in the same situation. Sadly the article says that they give the prisoners sleep inducing drugs and hold them in isolation.
I can determine from my research and readings that Israel does have a forensic system, wanting to know if the detainee can tell right from wrong There is an evaluation for competency which can include an examination in a hospital and treatment in a hospital or as an outpatient. What I can’t tell is numbers. How many inmates or detainees have a chronic and persistent mental illness in Israeli jails and prisons? I wonder how many prisoners are affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A related article does mention that many prisoners eventually are released from custody.
Just like America, where many prisoners are eventually released from custody. Our American correctional system must provide mental health treatment to our incarcerated in jail, prison, and juvenile facilities. Start community re-entry programs to help these inmates transition back into the community. Connect them to the community resources that they need in order for them to live successfully in the community, to decrease their likelihood of recidivism.
I am glad to be home, back to my work with adults who suffer from chronic and persistent mental illness. We must be doing something right; only one client is sleeping in jail tonight.
Nancy White is a counselor who has spent much of her professional life working in corrections.