Monday, January 3, 2011

Group Therapy In A Cage

This is a really depressing article from the December 28, 2010 Los Angeles Times:

Before group therapy begins for mentally ill maximum-security inmates at California prisons, five patients are led in handcuffs to individual metal cages about the size of a phone booth. Steel mesh and a plastic spit shield separate the patients from the therapist, who sits in front of the enclosures wearing a shank-proof vest.

When the lock clanks shut on the final cage — prison officials prefer to call them "therapeutic modules" — the therapist tries to build the foundation of any successful group: trust.
This isn't to be mean.  These are mentally ill prisoners for whom there is good reason to worry that they are going to attack the therapist.  By law (and by any common notion of decency), the prisons are required to provide treatment for the mentally ill--and yet some of these are people so dangerous that without these restraints, there would quickly be a shortage of therapists to work with them.

There are the usual whiners interviewed in the article.  The only thing I want to say is, "Then you take on the job of group therapy in a more conventional setting.  If you are still here next week, I'll be impressed."  People that work with prisoners have to be pretty special.  People that work with the mentally ill have to be pretty special.  People that do both...wow.

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