Well, This Is Just Silly

San Quentin is building a psychiatric hospital for condemned prisoners. Only in California. A judge ruled that some of the 720 or so inmates on Death Row have psychiatric problems, and so now they’re building a psych ward. Really?

Duh. We already know that they have mental issues; normal, moderately dysfunctional people don’t end up on Death Row. We can’t cure that, so we remove them from society.

We tolerate a lot of mental issues, as long as they don’t turn muderous. There are huge numbers of those folks out on the streets, pushing their belongings around in shopping carts because they won’t, for whatever reason, accept treatment. Granted, they should probably be institutionalized, but ever since the 1970s our laws have rendered involuntary commitment extremely difficult.

So we tolerate the mentally disturbed – unless they start killing people. At that point, we either incarcerate them for life or we kill them. That’s because we can’t cure them, and even if we could, laws would be enacted to prevent involuntary curing.

“This is the only place on Earth where you’d be talking about building a psychiatric hospital for condemned prisoners,” said Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring, who has written about the U.S. capital punishment system. “It is a measure of American greatness and American silliness at the same time.”

Yes, it’s silly. The inmates transferred to the new facility won’t be cured; there are no cures. They may be heavily medicated to make them more compliant, but they’re never going to be sane. We can do some amazing things, but we can’t rewire their brains.


About maxredlines

experience: biology, zoology, psychology. authored/co-authored papers appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as numerous professional proceedings. authored articles appearing in computer-oriented publications. featured in publications ranging from books to New Yorker magazine to television.
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