To the Editors:
In his outstanding review of David Garland’s book The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society [NYR, September 25], Jerome Bruner provides a comprehensive explanation for the dramatic increase in the jail and prison population in this country over the past thirty years. However, he fails to mention the large number of seriously mentally ill inmates (comprising some 20 percent of the more than two million prisoners) whose incarceration is related to the emptying of our state mental hospitals and the lack of meaningful follow-up community mental health programs.
Abraham L. Halpern, M.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry
Alfred M. Freedman, M.D.
Chairman and Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
New York Medical College
Valhalla, New York
Jerome Bruner replies:
Drs. Halpern and Freedman raise an important and humane issue. Alas, it was not one discussed in David Garland’s book or the others I cited. But it is surely time to bring into public discussion the issue of the incarceration of patients often prematurely released from our mental hospitals. I wish I could prevail on these two distinguished psychiatrists to write a book on the subject. It is badly needed.
December 4, 2003