The state Democratic party’s proposed 2016 platform includes language opposing housing severely mentally ill people who haven’t committed a crime at the state prison Secure Psychiatric Unit.
The proposal was submitted by state Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, who has fought against the commingling of the mentally ill patients in prison for several sessions. The 2016 proposed platform will be voted on Saturday at the Democratic State Convention.
“It is a small change but for those of us working to help end the criminalization of people with severe mental illness in our state, I think it is an important value statement,” Cushing said.
The draft says: “Democrats oppose the criminalization of people with mental illness or the transfer of the mentally ill who have not been charged with a crime to a prison setting. Patients with mental illness should be treated in a therapeutic environment not imprisoned.”
Cushing said he wanted the party “to move from silence on the longstanding practice of the state involuntarily transferring people with a mental illness from the state hospital to the state prison, and forcibly commingling and incarcerating those innocent patients with convicted prisoners in the prison psychiatric unit.”
Cushing’s proposed legislation, House Bill 1541, which prohibits the practice of housing mentally ill people who haven’t been charged or convicted of a crime at the state prison Secure Psychiatric Unit, is being studied in committee during the summer.