Tulane criminologist Peter Scharf is collecting data that suggests that increased services to convicted felons is good for society at large. Specifically, he is talking about increased mental health services, to accommodate the needs of the nearly 40% of the prison population that suffers from mental health issues.
“Typically, guys are medicated while they’re in jail, but they lose their prescriptions when they’re out on the streets,” Scharf told the Tulane New Wave. “Then they self-medicate with marijuana or stronger drugs. I believe it’s more effective to treat mental illness as part of a continuum of programs for correctional re-entry into society after prison.”
We are spending $65 billion on confining prisoners in the United States. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world. And, here in Louisiana, we have a recidivism rate of more than 50%. I’d say it’s time to shake things up a bit.
I would argue that the more money we spend on mental health, drug treatment and job training for ex-offenders on the front end, the less we spend incarcerating them on the back end.
Scharf hopes to provide more understanding to the links between mental health, drug abuse and the resulting violent crimes they foster. He believes we can save money and help people with the same investment.
I think he is worth listening to.