Mental Illness as a Crime


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On March 23, just a day after having gone to the hospital for mental health problems, a 41-year-old man named Daniel Prude bolted out of his brother Joe’s home in Rochester, N.Y, wearing few clothes. Joe was scared about what might happen to his brother.

So he did what many Americans do when facing an emergency involving mental illness. He called 911.

In the hours that followed, police officers found Daniel Prude walking down a street and handcuffed him. One officer held a knee on his back for two minutes. Unable to breathe, Prude lost consciousness and died a week later.

On Thursday, after the Prude family released a video of the confrontation, the mayor of Rochester suspended seven officers. (For a more detailed account, you can read this reconstruction by Times reporters.)

The case has raised many of the same questions — about racism and police behavior — as some other recent deaths of Black men. It has also highlighted a specific issue that many experts believe is crucial to reducing police-related violence: mental illness.

“Americans with mental illnesses make up nearly a quarter of those killed by police officers,” Pete Earley, whose mentally ill son has twice been shot with stun guns by police officers, has written for The Washington Post. As Earley also points out, “115 police officers have been killed since the 1970s by individuals with untreated serious mental illnesses.”

Are there any promising solutions? There appear to be.

Some cities have had success moving more mental health treatment — including emergency response — out of the criminal justice system. And many advocates for better policing have called for an expansion of these efforts, as part of shifting some police funding to other areas. “This is the only medical illness that we use criminal justice to respond to,” John Snook, the executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, told Vice.

One alternative: Eugene, Ore., routes some 911 calls — like many involving mental illness or homelessness — to an emergency health service, the White Bird Clinic. Last year, the clinic received 24,000 such calls Ebony Morgan, a White Bird crisis worker, told National Public Radio. In fewer than 1 percent of those cases did White Bird need to call for police backup as part of its response.

It’s hard not to wonder whether Daniel Prude would still be alive if his brother had been able to call medical professionals instead of the police.

Law enforcement agents shot and killed an antifa supporter yesterday when they went to arrest him in the fatal shooting of a right-wing activist in Portland, Ore. Officers reported that the suspect — 48-year-old Michael Forest Reinoehl — was armed.

Earlier yesterday, Vice published an interview with Reinoehl in which he appeared to admit to the Aug. 29 shooting, claiming he acted in self-defense.


The latest polls: Trump continues to trail Biden by a significant margin both nationwide and in battleground states, The Times’s Nate Cohn writes.


Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, announced yesterday that it would take new steps to crack down against misinformation, including refusing to run any new political ads in the week before Election Day and adding more context to misleading posts. Here’s what technology writers had to say about it:

Shira Ovide, who writes The Times’s On Tech newsletter: “The new rules are sensible on paper, but the question now is whether Facebook can effectively enforce them.”

Recode’s Peter Kafka notes that the new rules don’t prevent campaigns from running or ramping up existing ads, even misleading ones, right before Election Day. “You can’t understand the ban unless you understand what the ban doesn’t do,” he writes.

Zeynep Tufekci, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “Mark Zuckerberg, alone, gets to set key rules — with significant consequences — for one of the most important elections in recent history.”


Millions of university students in Latin America are leaving their studies because of the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis threatens decades of progress: Enrollment at colleges and universities in the region has doubled since the early 2000s but is expected to drop by around 25 percent in some countries this year.

In other virus developments:


The decline of high school sex continues.

In the early 1990s, slightly more than half of U.S. teenagers had sexual intercourse before graduating from high school. Last year, only 38 percent of high school graduates had done so, according to recently released government survey data. The decline spans demographic groups and has been sharpest among Black teenagers.

These trends are part of “a more general turn away from risky behavior among teens,” Charles Fain Lehman writes for the Institute for Family Studies. “As psychologist Jean Twenge has documented, contemporary teens not only have less sex but also drink alcohol less and drive less.” Those who do have sex are more likely to use contraception.

There is a worrisome side to the trend, though, as Kate Julian explained in a 2018 Atlantic article about the “sex recession”: It seems to be a part of a larger shift away from social activity and physical intimacy among young people, even before the pandemic.

Savor the last weeks of summer with a slow cooker barbecue pulled pork sandwich. And if you prepped some pickled veggies ahead of the long weekend’s festivities — as we recommended on Monday — add them as a side dish.


Our weekly suggestion from Gilbert Cruz, The Times’s Culture editor:

The 1959 film “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” is considered one of the earliest music documentaries, a precursor to festival films like “Woodstock” and “Monterey Pop.” It feels like a test run for the form, stitching together several days of footage from the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival with footage of that year’s America’s Cup trials, which also took place in Newport.

A beautiful, newly restored version of the film — which features performances by Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Anita O’Day and a too brief Thelonious Monk, among others — is available to rent through local independent cinemas. (Here’s a troubleshooting link if you’re confused.) I spent my $10 on New York’s Film Forum, where I once worked and which I miss dearly.


How does Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan,” out today for streaming on Disney+, stack up against its beloved 1998 animated predecessor? For starters, it’s much more serious. There’s no singing and no wisecracking dragon sidekick in this version, in a bid to be more culturally sensitive. It’s also packed with plenty of superstars.





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