National Journalist, Author to Discuss the Criminalization of Mental Illness

Event: The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health presents a discussion on the criminalization of mental illness by nationally acclaimed journalist, bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Pete Earley.

When: 3-4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21

Where: Legislative Conference Center, Room E2.002, Texas Capitol

Background: Earley will discuss why jails and prisons have become our new asylums, why this is wrong and what we need to do to turn mental illness back into a health issue instead of a criminal justice problem.

Earley's experiences with trying to help his son, Mike, who was denied treatment and arrested during a psychotic episode, became the basis for "Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness." The book tells two stories. The first is his son's. The second describes what he observed during a year-long investigation inside the Miami-Dade County jail, where he was given unrestricted access.

Since the publication of "Crazy," which refers to our mental health system and not to persons with mental illness, Earley has visited 46 states and three foreign countries advocating for mental health reform. He also was appointed to a criminal justice task force in Virginia to review and make recommendations about the state's mental health laws. The book has won several national awards and was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for general nonfiction in 2007.

"I feel more passionately about this book than any I have ever written," said Earley. "Our nation's jails and prisons have become our new mental asylums. I wrote this book as a wake-up call to expose how persons with mental illness are ending up behind bars when what they need is help, not punishment."