Photo courtesy Mesh, flickr creative commons
Mental health advocates are concerned that a bill to enhance prison safety could disproportionately hurt inmates with severe mental illnesses.
A bill making its way through the General Assembly would have imposed automatic felony charges, with time in prison added to the sentences of inmates who masturbate in front of or throw bodily or unknown fluids toward a correctional officer.
These felony charges could have added up to two years to an inmate’s sentence for each offense, which would be served consecutively. The concern was that this could potentially add more than a decade to an inmate’s time for a prisoner with multiple offenses.
Dave Wickstrom, executive director of the Alliance of Disability Advocates, said he feared this could “keep people with mental illness in prison forever.”
After a contentious legislative committee meeting Thursday afternoon, the bill continued to move forward, but with the penalties softened some.
Nonetheless, advocates worry the measure will sweep up some of the most vulnerable of North Carolina’s prison population, and raise costs.