A New Lease on Life

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System7 Comments

In 1992, Rudolph Norris, 58, was convicted of possessing and selling crack-cocaine and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 30 years. He would have received a greatly reduced sentence for the same non-violent crime today but his conviction came during the war-on-drugs debacle of decades past. According to federal data, roughly ½ of the 1.5 million federal and state … Read More

De-Stigmatizing Methadone Treatment

Maureen MurdockAddiction11 Comments

Methadone chemical composition

We are being told that there’s a heroin epidemic in the United States that is killing scores of young people. The Midwest has become one of the hot spots of heroin use where it’s as easy to order it with your cell phone as it is to order pizza. Part of the reason there’s an increase of opiate use is … Read More

Report on Treatment of Mental Illness in Prisons by Human Rights Watch

Maureen MurdockCriminal Justice System, Mental Illness8 Comments

Life in Lockup graphic from Human Rights Watch

Those of you who have been reading my blog know that our prisons have become the largest mental illness institutions in the United States. An estimated one in five prisoners in the US has a serious mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, and major depression. I thought I had read everything about the despicable treatment the mentally ill receive … Read More

Overdose Deaths from Pills and Heroin Surpass Traffic Fatalities

Maureen MurdockAddiction8 Comments

Did you know that overdose deaths from pills and heroin now surpass traffic fatalities? Isn’t that astounding? If this is true, we are in the middle of our worst drug plague ever, apart from cigarettes and alcohol. How has this happened? Part of the reason you haven’t read about this before is that the victims are mostly young, white, well-off, … Read More

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 Illness5 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