Site Unseen: Incarceration

Maureen MurdockArt and Creativity, Criminal Justice System7 Comments

Site Unseen: Incarceration is a gallery show curated by Sheila Pinkel, Emerita Professor of Art, Pomona College, to highlight the realities and challenges confronting incarcerated people. The exhibit at Los Angeles Valley College displays the work of 7 incarcerated individuals as well as 7 non-incarcerated people who use a variety of approaches to create consciousness about incarceration in the United … Read More

Criminal Justice Reform Draws Unlikely Bedfellows

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System5 Comments

"Solitary" by Brendan Murdock

Last week lawmakers lined up to promote their criminal justice reform bills at an event, which included both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and Piper Kerman, who wrote a memoir about her incarceration in a federal prison that inspired the groundbreaking Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Since crime is down and interest is high in decreasing the price tag … Read More

Rethinking Mental Illness

Maureen MurdockMental Illness4 Comments

Both the British Psychological Association and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health have instigated a new method of researching mental illness. In the past, researchers were driven by biologically diagnostic categorization drawing a sharp distinction between those who are ill and those who are well. This approach failed to find any clear biological distinction between such illnesses as depression, schizophrenia … Read More

The Aftermath of California’s Prop. 47

Maureen MurdockAddiction, Criminal Justice System14 Comments

The passage of Proposition 47 in California reduced felonies for low-level crimes like drug possession to misdemeanors thereby decreasing prison time from several years to up to a year in jail instead. The intention of Prop. 47 was to use the money saved from incarcerating drug offenders to rehabilitating them in programs for both substance abuse and mental illness. Nearly … Read More

Prop 47: California Voters Address Prison Reform

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System10 Comments

California voters are about to cast a momentous vote for prison reform with the passage of Proposition 47 on Tuesday, November 4th. The initiative to reduce penalties for illicit drug use and petty theft is part of a multi-million dollar campaign to revise sentencing laws in California and across the nation. Prop 47 would reclassify possession of heroin, meth, and … Read More

The Neglect of Mental Illness is the Enemy

Maureen MurdockMental Illness8 Comments

Mental Illness Word Cloud

The man who shot and killed a Canadian soldier at Canada’s National War Memorial and manned an assault on Parliament Hill on October 22nd was not a part of a well-resourced terrorist organization but instead suffered from untreated mental illness and addiction. In spite of his recurring attempts to get treatment in jail by committing robberies, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was refused … Read More

New Treatment for Mentally Ill Inmates: Reduce Pepper Spray

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System, Mental Illness17 Comments

In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Paige St. John writes that California has decided to use special solitary confinement units to house mentally ill inmates as part of an attempt to comply with federal court orders to improve their care. Instead of using pepper spray to calm them down, isolation is the new treatment for the mentally ill. … Read More

A $650 Million Donation for Psychiatric Research

Maureen MurdockMental Illness9 Comments

Recently it was announced in the New York Times that Ted Stanley, age 84, has donated $650 million for psychiatric research. The reason for his generous grant is that his son, Jonathan Stanley, had a psychotic episode in 1988 and was lucky enough to receive effective treatment after a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The older Stanley marvels at the difference … Read More

Yoga and Addiction Recovery

Maureen MurdockAddiction, Criminal Justice System8 Comments

Prisoners doing yoga

I have been taking a yoga class in Santa Barbara from Mike Lewis, an instructor in recovery who also volunteers as a yoga instructor for inmates in the Santa Barbara County jail. As I have written before, Governor Brown has reduced the funding for rehabilitation classes in California’s jails and prisons so services such as yoga to help inmates deal … Read More

Deinstitutionalization Hasn’t Worked

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System, Mental Illness20 Comments

The recent mass killings in Isla Vista, CA by a man who suffered from mental illness has once again raised the issue of the insanity of deinstitutionalization of the severely mentally ill. Deinstitutionalization (releasing severely mentally ill from psychiatric hospitals) began in 1955 with the widespread introduction of Thorazine, the first effective antipsychotic medication. The widespread use of Thorazine moved the … Read More

The Most Punitive Nation in the World

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System, Mental Illness15 Comments

prisoner in handcuffs

Robert A. Ferguson’s new book about our addiction to incarceration, Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment, asks a poignant question about our culture. Do we, as a people, have a drive to punish that is especially virulent? The statistics seem to indicate that we do. According to Ferguson, the United States is the world leader in locking up human beings behind … Read More

A Paradigm Shift: Prison Re-Entry Council Project

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System7 Comments

Last October, Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, California hosted the first “Council” with inmates in this level IV facility. SVSP houses some of the most dangerous inmates in California. Yet, in spite of its population, six Native Americans, four African Americans, an inmate from Honduras and a pre-op transsexual met together with a couple of Council leaders for a … Read More

The Plot from Solitary

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System6 Comments

"Solitary" by Brendan Murdock

Terry Gross of Fresh Air recently interviewed Benjamin Wallace-Wells about his article in New York Magazine entitled “The Plot From Solitary” about the inmate hunger strike in California prisons last July. Four prisoners in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay maximum-security Prison coordinated the massive hunger strike that involved 30,000 inmates throughout California prisons. Pelican Bay has 1000 isolation cells in its … Read More

When We Embrace Recovery There is Hope

Maureen MurdockMental Illness9 Comments

Frankie & Alice Movie

For the past 8 years, Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry has been working on Frankie & Alice, a film about a 1970s-era black go-go dancer named Frankie who has dissociative identity disorder (DID). Frankie has two alternative identities: a scared 7-year old little girl named Genius and a white, bigoted Southern belle named Alice. With the care and support of … Read More