December 5, 2000
comments powered by Disqus
A dispatch from Los Angeles in the national section of today's New York Times runs under the headline "Concern Rising Over Use of Juvenile Prisons to 'Warehouse' the Mentally Ill." The article, complete with a touching photograph of a young woman lawyer clutching a client's teddy bear, speaks of "the plight of an increasing number of young people suffering from mental illness or mental retardation or both, who, because of cutbacks in the mental health system and reduced mental health coverage by insurance companies, are falling into the juvenile justice system."
The article quotes one estimate that "50 percent to 75 percent of teenagers in the juvenile justice system nationwide have a diagnosable mental disorder."
And the article says the trend is "alarming," quoting a judge bemoaning the fact that America is "criminalizing mental illness."
Well, maybe. Mental illness is a real thing, and the story of "Sheila M.," the 16-year-old represented by the teddy-bear toting lawyer, is genuinely sad. But blaming juvenile delinquency on "cutbacks in the mental health system" and "reduced mental health coverage by insurance companies" is a classic example of how the Times coverage of crime finds every possible excuse to excuse criminals from responsibility for their own behavior. There are plenty of mentally ill -- or, as the Times puts it at one point, "emotionally troubled" --persons who do not commit crimes. And there are plenty of criminals, who, despite the best wishes of the Times and their defense lawyers to make it appear otherwise, are not mentally ill.
Some of what the Times describes is not "criminalizing mental illness," but "medicalizing crime." It has the consequence of excusing criminal behavior that should not be excused.
Can't Count: A front-page story from Washington in today's New York Times refers to the U.S. Supreme Court's "six-page opinion" in the Florida election case. The opinion was seven pages long. The first page is numbered with a "1." The last page, which is not entirely full, is numbered with a "7."
We Print, You Decide: The New York Times this morning offers readers two choices of a quote from a lawyer for George W. Bush, Barry Richard. A front-page Times article quotes Mr. Richard as saying, "Judge Sauls got every point, even one I didn't think of." An article inside the national section quotes Mr. Richard as saying, "Judge Sauls hit every point. He even got one that I didn't think of." The difference doesn't affect the meaning, so maybe the Times should be thanked for injecting a little variety into its readers' mornings. Putting in the same quote twice in exactly the same way might risk redundancy.
Late Again: The Times metro section today carries a story about Online Journalism Awards that were announced Friday by Columbia University. If the Times really thinks these awards are worth covering at all, why does it take the paper until Tuesday to print an article about an event that happened on Friday?
Subscribe to the Mailing List
© 2017 FutureOfCapitalism LLC