Mentally ill need treatment, not prisons

All 80 or so seniors at Fremont High School had to pick a topic of social injustice for their senior project. Many people chose to try to solve problems for the victims of familiar social injustices — child abuse, immigration and gun violence.
But I took on a group of victims who don’t often get many supporters — serial killers. My senior project was specifically about the injustice of people with mental disorders and how they get judged without regard to the mental disorder they may have when they become convicted serial killers.
I want others at Fremont High to understand that people with mental disorders are just like me and you. They just think differently at times. I also want others at Fremont High to also realize that the number of people with serious mental disorders is huge.
In fact, one in 20 adults in California has a serious mental disorder. Children have it worse with one in 13 having a serious disorder, meaning that about 62 of Fremont High’s 800 students could have mental disorders.
For my senior project, I could not do field observation of a convicted serial killer. But I could do field observation of someone with a mental disorder who is treated unfairly.
I observed a homeless man who has multiple personality disorder. I checked with him first to make sure it was okay to observe him, and I tried my best to explain that I needed him to act like he does every day.
The reason I picked my homeless friend to watch was not just because he has a mental disorder but because he has had run ins with the police because of his mental disorder.
The first few days I noticed that he was aware of me and was trying to act “regular.” I decided, “Okay, this is not working, so I am going to give him a few weeks to forget that we talked and come back.”
When I came back, he was gone.
I asked a nearby store owner, “Where did he go? Is he ever coming back?”
Turns out that the homeless man’s anger personality had come out, and the cops had put him in jail.
That is not where they should have sent this man.
The mentally ill get treated wrong in jail. Just look at what a woman named Bianca wrote on Yelp about Santa Rita Prison: “People with mental disabilities and disorders unfortunately end up here too. These people get the shit end of the stick, I’d say. If you even tell a deputy you’re feeling like you want to hurt someone or yourself, you will end up wearing dark green jail clothes. This is classified as ‘mental.’”
This is sickening. We are told not to judge by the color of someone else’s skin, but why is it okay to judge someone by their mental disorder? Why is it okay for the prison to put different colors on people with a mental disorder? What if the person did not want others to know? What if the person just wanted to be alone?
In fact, sending the mentally ill to prison creates more problems for them.
It tells them that our society does not care about what they are going through. To solve this problem, the mentally ill need to be sent to a mental hospital and not to prison.