While there is little doubt that Maine's mental health system is in serious need of reform, housing difficult patients in the Maine State Prison is not the solution (editorial, Sept. 15: "Riverview’s most dangerous patients must be moved").
The criminal justice and mental health systems are separate entities and should remain that way. Those found “not criminally responsible” or “incompetent to stand trial” have been declared legally unfit for the criminal justice system and do not belong in prison. While housing them in a new unit might “provide better support for control,” it would ultimately fail to address the underlying problem: Maine is not adequately addressing the needs of many mental health patients.
The fact that some Riverview forensic patients commit violence while there should not be taken as a call to imprison more people, but as a grave reminder of how desperate the need for reform is. While recent events at Riverview have highlighted significant problems, we must resist the temptation to turn to the prison to solve those much more complex problems. Doing so not only fails to address the needs of the most vulnerable patients, but will also create greater costs down the line for the state and communities.
Grainne Dunne, Portland, Justice Organizer at the ACLU of Maine