Florida pledges to protect inmates with mental illness

 Inmates with mental illnesses who were once confined around the clock to a cell block filled with feces, rotten food and insects — and sometimes allegedly beaten, tortured and starved by staff — should be treated more humanely under a landmark lawsuit settlement reached this week between the Florida Department of Corrections and a statewide disability advocacy group.

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The Criminalization of People With Mental Illness in America: A Matter of Human Rights | Ginger Lerner-Wren

It proved to be a bittersweet Mental Health Awareness Month this May 2015. As mental health advocates posted articles and assembled educational community forums, Human Rights Watch shocked America with the truth. A 127-page investigative report describes a criminal justice system in America and its use of excessive force, even systemically brutal and malicious. The report, “Callous and Cruel: Use of Force Against Inmates With Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons,” charges in no uncertain terms that, “Jails and prisons staff throughout the United States have used unnecessary, excessive and even malicious force against prisoners with mental disabilities.”

According to Jamie Fellner, U.S. program senior advisor at Human Rights Watch and author of the report, “Force is used against prisoners even when, because of their illness, they cannot understand or comply with staff orders.” The report is essentially a compilation of the multitude of individual cases and class actions, Justice Department investigations and interviews with over 100 correction officials and use of force experts. The report includes the death of Damen Rainey, a 50-year-old inmate who was locked in a shower, which according to the Miami Herald, “had been converted to a torture chamber at Dade County Correctional Institution.” Additional alleged atrocities uncovered by The Herald describe a pervasive culture of mental and physical abuse, which includes a starvation squad, racial beatings, sexual assaults and threats of retaliation if complaints were filed. The Department of Justice and FBI are investigating.

One can understand why Broward’s pioneering Mental Health Court was established as a human rights model. With the release of this latest Human Rights Watch report, it is more than fair to say that all mental health courts should embrace a human rights framework. So what does that mean? It means that although, for example the U.S. has not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities those fidelities can become aspirational values and embedded within the court process. That dignity is promoted and due process and equal rights under the law protected. It means that individual substantive constitutional rights are preserved and all statutory entitlements and legal protections against abuse, neglect and harm are advanced. Further, a human rights orientation respects individual choice and ensures these principles of dignity and self-determination are braided through all operational and procedural constructs of the court process. More importantly, there is authenticity and urgency to the court’s therapeutic mission of diversion from the criminal justice system to community based system of care. Of course, public safety and victim’s rights are paramount judicial considerations which must be balanced.

America stands at a crossroads. As the Human Rights Watch report informs us, jails and prisons are unsuitable substitutes for psychiatric hospitals or residential programs. They can be dangerous and potentially deadly. In America, hundreds of thousands of people with serious mental illness are being housed in our nation’s jails and prisons. Many due to untreated mental illness, stigma and severely underfunded and fragmented state-wide systems of behavioral health care.

It is true, prison guards and jail correction officers are not trained social workers or mental health practitioners. The use of excessive force and other abusive practices must be investigated and perpetrators held accountable. The criminalization of people with serious mental illness has been a source of epic human suffering, victimization and economic loss. It is worthy to note that Florida, the 3rd largest state, has defiantly rejected Medicaid expansion funds and stands at 49th funded in the United States. The correlation between failed governmental policies of deinstitutionalization and the resulting criminalization of people with mental illness is well settled.

It is beyond time to reject criminalization as an acceptable substitute for the funding and development of qualitative and recovery focused community based systems of care. It is time to recognize that America’s human stain — is one of basic human rights.

Pictures from the 2014 NAMIWalks Broward County

NAMIWalks Broward County 2014 was amazing — it was a beautiful day and we had over 800 people in attendance! It was heart-warming and inspiring to see so many dedicated advocates and supporters united for the cause of raising awareness about mental illness. We are deeply grateful for the support and generosity the Walk has received. Thank you!

With music provided by DJ Crash Tandy, our emcee for the day, our own Executive Director, Kat Campbell, Honorary Walk Chairs Sheriff Scott Israel and Chief Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, an energetic warm up with Joyce Simmons and an amazing performance of the national anthem performed by Cassidy Shooster it was a day full of good times. NAMI Broward also received a proclamation from Coconut Creek  Mayor Lisa Aronson.  Special thanks to the Broward Sheriff’s Office for all their support.


We had plenty of food, water and FUN! Just a reminder the fundraising continues for 60 days after the walk. It’s a good idea to touch base with the people you solicited for donations and let them know what a great time we had and that it’s not too late to contribute. We are still working on reaching our goal so if you have not yet donated and would like to lend your support please follow click on to http://www.NAMIWalks.org/BrowardCounty


Thank you to all of our sponsors, teams, participants, donors and volunteers for making the 2th Annual NAMI Walk on Saturday, November 8 our most successful Walk ever! Late donations are still being accepted online or mailed to: NAMI Broward County Attn: NAMI Walk 4161 NW Fifth Street, Suite 203 Plantation, FL 33317

The funds raised will allow our affiliate  to continue to expand our educational programs and support groups in Broward County.


To see pictures from the 2014 Walk click on the link below:



More pictures from the 2013 NAMI Walk, South Florida. Enjoy!

More pictures from the 2013 NAMI Walk, South Florida. Enjoy!


Graduation from the Family to Family class in Spanish

Graduation from the Family to Family class in Spanish

November 15 ·

Photos of the graduation from the Family to Family class in Spanish. Thanks to everyone who took part and our volunteer instructor. Friends and support are made this way. Gracias!

Our Photos


NAMI Walk Attracts Over 700 Participants in its First Year!

NAMI Walk Attracts Over 700 Participants in its First Year!

Every journey begins with that first step! A tremendous “Thank You!” to everyone who joined in on Saturday’s Walk at Tradewinds Park. It was an amazing show of support and raised funds and awareness for NAMI South Florida programs.

As NAMIWalks celebrates its first walk in South Florida, we are proud to be the largest and most successful mental illness awareness event in America! Through NAMIWalks’ public, active display of support for people affected by mental illness, we are changing our American communities and ensuring that help and hope are available for those in need.

Plan on joining us again next year! Let’s keep the momentum going!

Have a Smartphone? Fundraising and managing your fundraising page is easy on our new fundraising app. Download for free. Visit the site and get the app!

Call the office at 954-739-1888 or email NAMIBroward

Official Website: www.namiwalks.org

Every journey begins with that first step!
Our Amazing Sponsors

Gold Sponsor: Magellan Complete Care

Silver Sponsors: Broward County Sheriff’s Office; On Call Public Relations

Start/Finish Line Sponsors: Palm Beach Kennel Club; Take Shape Plastic Surgery

Bronze Sponsors: Cenpatico; GEO Care; Henderson Behavioral Health; Nello Biordi; Keiser University

Supporting Sponsors: Global Response; Angels Heart-h-Hands; FootWorks; Gulf Coast Jewish & Family Community Services; Broward Health; Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale; Remix T-Shirt Company; and SeaWorld

Kilometer Sponsors: LifeSkills of South Florida; CBRE Brokerage; Allsup Alliances; and Biagi Engineering

NAMI newest Photo Album

Visit our photo album on Facebook. Take your own photos of NAMI events and we can post them too. Send to NAMIBroward for consideration




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