Policing Mental Health

June 3-4 arts events aim to influence public debate about mental illness, policing and incarceration

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The films “Last Day of Freedom” and “Code” and the play “Chasing Monsters from Under the Bed” will address different aspects of the intersection of mental health and law enforcement during the June 3-4 program “Policing Mental Health.” ”Last Day of Freedom” photo (left) by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman. “Chasing Monsters from Under the Bed” photo by Michael Blaze.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Two films and a play that tackle tough issues around mental health, policing, and the criminal justice system will be presented by the UC Riverside Public History Program and the Humanities Action Lab on Friday and Saturday, June 3-4, at UCR ARTSblock in downtown Riverside.

The two-day program, “Policing Mental Health,” will include discussions with artists, organizers, and mental health experts. Events both days are free, but reservations for the June 3 screenings are requested and may be made online. The events expand on the “States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories” traveling exhibit, web platform, and coordinated public programs by UCR and the Humanities Action Lab, a collaboration between 20 universities based at The New School, New York. The exhibit is on view at the California Museum of Photography through Aug. 6.

“The United States has 10 times more mentally ill people in its prisons than in psychiatric hospitals,” said Catherine Gudis, associate professor of history and director of the Public History Program at UCR. “One of every five people released from jail in Los Angeles County goes directly to the street, where their poverty and behaviors are often criminalized, and they land back in jail or they face aggressive policing by law enforcement officers ill equipped to address mental health issues. These films, performances, and public conversations aim to humanize and to change the narratives about mental health, policing, and incarceration so that we can engage productive solutions, from training for police and correctional officers to giving voice to the challenges and means by which affected community members can forge identities outside of the categories that the criminal justice system has imposed upon them.”

Two films will screen on Friday, June 3, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Culver Center of the Arts. The Culver Center is one of three venues that comprise UCR ARTSblock, , 3824 Main St.

“Last Day of Freedom” (32 minutes, 2015) is an animated documentary about a veteran with PTSD who commits a crime and thus enters the justice system. Addressing issues at the nexus of veterans’ care, mental health access, and criminal justice, the film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2016. (Directed by Dee Hibbert Jones and Nomi Talisman)

“Code” (60 minutes, 2015) is a training film for correctional officers on how to deal empathetically with the mentally ill, and an educational tool for those concerned about the institutions that house millions of mentally ill people in the U.S. It features interviews with correctional officers and inmates sharing their stories of living with mental illness in prison. The film was commissioned by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Tennessee. Director Dixie Gamble and Jeff Fladen, executive director of NAMI Tennessee, will discuss the film afterward.

On Saturday, June 4, at 7 p.m. members of the Los Angeles Poverty Department will perform “Chasing Monsters from Under the Bed,” a play written by LA Poverty Department workshop participants to explore the process of recovery from mental illness and homelessness. The play is co-directed by Henriëtte Brouwers and John Malpede. The LA Poverty Department, founded in 1985 on Skid Row in Los Angeles, is comprised mainly of homeless or formerly homeless people and has been an uncompromising force in performance and activism for 30 years. It makes artistic work to change the narrative about people living in poverty, aiming to create a community of compassion and inspire the next generation of artists.

A discussion after the play will include panelists Greer Sullivan, director of the Center for Healthy Communities at the UCR School of Medicine; Maribel Nuñez, director of the California Partnership; and Kevin Michael Key, a member of the Los Angeles Poverty Department.

These events are supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Open Society Foundations, and UCR ARTSblock, Department of History, Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production, Blum Initiative on Global and Regional Poverty of the School of Public Policy, and the Center for Healthy Communities of the School of Medicine.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Catherine Gudis
E-mail: cagudis@ucr.edu

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