Orange County Justice Advocates Use Film and Speakers to Detail Plight of Mentally Ill Inmates

Viewers see Lynn Moore struggling outside and behind bars in the Frontline film The Released.

To detail the vicious cycle mentally ill jail and prison parolees routinely find themselves in, Laguna Beach-based Advocates for Cost-Effective Justice presents an enlightening documentary and speakers Saturday morning.

The group screens The Released, a documentary that was shown on the PBS program Frontline in 2009. It follows the struggles of jail and prison inmates, as well as their caretakers on the inside and outside.

It basically boils down to this: Since the Reagan-era release of the mentally ill from institutions, these people have tried to survive on the streets with varying degrees of success. It was the horrors of mental institutions that helped set many patients free, but one thing that can be said is at least such folks were properly medicated in those days (for the most part).

Most of those The Released follows know they must take their meds to quiet the voices in their heads and demons that drive them to destruction. But staying medicated is difficult for the poorest of these people, who aren't exactly viewed as ideal job candidates. So, when their meds run out or they get tired of the side effects, they often run afoul of the law.

"The largest mental institution in Orange County is our jail," Tiffany Lin of Advocates for Cost-Effective Justice informs the Weekly. "Orange County adult jails house an average of 7,000 prisoners on a daily basis. Approximately 70 percent have either a drug and/or alcohol related issue. Over 2100, a disproportionate number, have mental health diagnoses."

Again, at least jails and corrections facilities are staffed with professionals who can give those who need it psychiatric, psychological and pharmaceutical help. But as is shown in the film, which is set in Ohio, there often is no follow-up care on the outside, and the meds they get once paroled only last a couple weeks. With no jobs or programs to help them cope or earn livings so they can buy meds, guess where they wind up again?

Which begs the question, in these days of tight budgets: Wouldn't it cost society less to give them some sort of oversight so that, if nothing else, someone is making sure these folks take their meds?

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