Alcohol and drug related charges are also common

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Alcohol- and drug-related charges are also common because alcohol and drug use among this population frequently occurs as a secondary problem among the mentally ill (e.g., a woman with manic-depressive illness in Califomia was arrested for being drunk and disorderly on the street). There have been numerous arrests for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; in some cases the person has not used either but, because of bizarre behavior, is assumed to have done so by the arresting officer. Trespassing is another catchall charge police officers often use to remove mentally ill persons from the street. A man with schizophrenia and alcohol abuse in New Hampshire has been arrested 26 times, mostly on trespassing charges. A woman in Tennessee reported that her son with schizophrenia had been arrested and put in jail for holding a sign that says "Will Work For Food" and on another occasion for sleeping in a cemetery. In another scenario that frequently leads to arrest for trespassing, the mentally ill person has a delusion of owning a building; a man in Florida was arrested for refusing to leave a motel "that God had given him," and a man in Kansas entered a farmhouse and went to sleep because he believed he had won the farm as a prize from a cigarette company. Local businesses often exert pressure on the police to get rid of "undesirables," including the mentally ill. This is especially true in tourist towns such as New Orleans, where the police have a well-known reputation for "cleaning the streets" by arresting all vagrants and homeless persons. A police official in Atlanta described how mentally ill homeless persons at the city's airport are routinely arrested, while a sheriff in South Carolina confided that "our problems usually stem from complaints from local business operators." "Mercy bookings" by police who are trying to protect the mentally ill are also surprisingly common. This is especially true for women, who are easily victimized, even raped, on the streets. A sheriff in Arizona admitted that police officers "will find something to charge the person with and bring her to jail." A jail official in West Virginia, after describing how the local state psychiatric hospital routinely discharged severely disabled patients to the streets, said, "If the mental institutions will not hold them, I will ." In Madison, Wisconsin, police arrested a mentally ill woman who was yelling on the streets and charged her with disorderly conduct. According to a police department spokesperson, "People called us because they were afraid she'd be assaulted ... the woman was not exhibiting the dangerous behavior necessary for commitment to Mendota [State Hospital], she didn't want to go to a shelter and no one could force medication on her." 53 So the police arrested and jailed her for her own protection.

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