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                                                NAMI Forensic Network/MN                                    

                                            1021 Larpenteur Av. West, E-225                               

                                                  Roseville, Minnesota 55113

651-484-8218      651-484-7037(fax)



                                                                                                                   May 18, 2007


To the Editor

Minnesota Law & Politics

220 South Sixth Street

Minneapolis, MN 55402-4507


Attention: Steve Kaplan


Dear Mr. Kaplan;


Thank you for the informative articles on the mentally ill and the criminal justice system. Since mental illness affects 64% of local jail inmates, 56% of state prisoners, and 45% of federal inmates, all candidates going through law enforcement training academies should complete courses on mental illness. All current law enforcement officers should be mandated to have training. The most important training area is the de-escalation of crisis situations for persons with mental illness. Federal law (EMTALA) requires that when persons with a mental illness are taken to a hospital emergency room, they must be helped. (See for more information.)  Yet, hospitals are ignoring this law when they say they don’t have any beds. Police need to be instructed not to call the hospital, but deliver the patient to the emergency room of any hospital.


One family in five is affected by mental illness, a no fault brain disorder. In our opinion, none of those convicted of a crime belong in prison. They need medical treatment, not punishment. Very few are sent to St. Peter. Placing a person at St. Peter costs taxpayers over $200,000 per year versus under $40,000 per year in one of our state prisons. By sending such people to prison, blaming them for their disorder instead of treating their illness doesn’t bring justice for anyone.


We have a support group, the NAMI Forensic Network/MN, an affiliate of NAMI-MN for relatives and friends of persons who have a loved one with a mental illness in St. Peter, jail, or prison. Almost without exception family members have tried to get their loved one help prior to their committing a crime, but the health care system is in shambles, and our laws are more insane then the people.





Joe & JoAnn Zwack



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