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Insane

America's Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness
Written by: Alisa Roth
Narrated by: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 10 hrs and 9 mins

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Publisher's Summary

An urgent expose of the mental health crisis in our courts, jails, and prisons.

America has made mental illness a crime. Jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago each house more people with mental illnesses than any hospital. As many as half of all people in America's jails and prisons have a psychiatric disorder. One in four fatal police shootings involves a person with such disorders.

In this revelatory book, journalist Alisa Roth goes deep inside the criminal justice system to tell how and why it has become a warehouse where inmates are denied proper treatment, abused, and punished in ways that make them sicker. Through intimate stories of people in the system and those trying to fix it, Roth reveals the hidden forces behind this crisis and suggests how a fairer and more humane approach might look. Insane is a galvanizing wake-up call for criminal justice reformers and anyone concerned about the plight of our most vulnerable.

©2018 Alisa Roth (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Bri
  • 20-03-19

Phenomenal Expose

Loved the fact this author pulled no punches about how the mentally I'll are treated. Also loved the narrator.

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  • K. C. H
  • 16-01-19

Great required reading

This book was easy to keep listening to because of the interesting and almost unbelievable stories suffered by those who are locked up, and very difficult to listen to for the same reasons.


This is required reading for a Master of Social Work class related to intersections of mental health, trauma and addiction. It's easy to see how people would turn to substance use to get over the horrors and trauma experienced by those misunderstood and locked up- if they survive solitary confident with their lives or their eyeballs.

We see this in the real world all the time. Law enforcement is there to stop criminals, not babysit sick people. They frequently don't understand confused or unstable mental health problems and treat people as being resistant. Also, there are those who try to pull the wool over the eyes and fake mental illness. After this book the experienced professional will have a far better understanding of what's real, but it will take a lot more to fully understand. More books could be written on the topic and far more investigation done on the topic.

This book clearly helps us understand what a colossal failure the criminal justice system is for those with mental health problems. Conditions are so bad and restrictions so tight that professional volunteers can't even try to help. There needs to be education for law enforcement, corrections officers, and a complete change in laws protecting people from themselves and the system.

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  • John
  • 25-03-20

CIT Research

An important note to make in the effectiveness of CIT. While studies show that CIT training is effective for willing participants, the creators of CIT noted in their research that this is only indicative of officers who are willing. Research shows officers who are unwilling to participate in CIT and are mandated to, often have stereotypes reinforced through the training and have adverse outcomes in results. The researchers do not recommend unwilling officers to participate.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-01-20

One of the Most Important Books Today

I loved this book, halfway through listening to it I ordered a copy for my father, who is a Vietnam war veteran with schizophrenia and PTSD, and who also spent time in the prison system. This book was hard to listen to at times because of how dark the content is, and because it hits close to home. One story mentioned was nearly identical to what had happened to my brother, who also suffered from mental illness and was fatally shot during an episode. I had no idea this had happened as commonly, and that it had happened again two county's over from where my brother was killed. Many accounts in this book also mirror anecdotes from my father's experiences in prison. My father has been reading this book almost one chapter at a time, and usually calls me afterwards to vent and discuss. He's told me it has validated his struggles from both being caught up in the system himself, and also losing his son. This book is very powerful and informative of the prison system across the United states, as well as possible ways to fix it. If you read anything this year, you have to read this.