The Madness of American Incarceration
with Christine Montross
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Dr. Christine Montross has spent her career treating the most severely ill psychiatric patients. Several years ago, she set out to investigate why so many of her patients got caught up in the legal system when discharged from her care — and what happened to them therein.
Join us for this thought-provoking presentation, as Dr. Montross recounts what she learned during the research and writing of her new book, Waiting for an Echo: the Madness of American Incarceration.
Waiting for an Echo is a riveting, rarely seen glimpse into American incarceration. It is also a damning account of policies that have criminalized mental illness, shifting large numbers of people who belong in therapeutic settings into punitive ones.
The stark world of American prisons is shocking for all who enter. But Dr. Montross’ expertise — the mind in crisis — allowed her to reckon with the human stories behind the bars. A father attempting to weigh the impossible calculus of a plea bargain. A bright young woman whose life is derailed by addiction. Boys in a juvenile detention facility who, desperate for human connection, invent a way to communicate with one another from cell to cell. Overextended doctors and correctional officers who strive to provide care and security in environments riddled with danger. In these encounters, Montross finds that while our system of correction routinely makes people with mental illness worse, just as routinely, it renders mentally stable people psychiatrically unwell. The system is quite literally maddening.
Our methods of incarceration take away not only freedom, but also selfhood and soundness of mind. In a nation where ninety-five percent of all inmates are released from prison and return to our communities, this is a practice that punishes us all.
A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction, Dr. Christine Montross is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She is a practicing inpatient psychiatrist and performs forensic psychiatric examinations. She completed medical school and residency training at Brown University, where she received the Isaac Ray Award in Psychiatry and the Martin B. Keller Outstanding Brown Psychiatry Resident Award.
She received her undergraduate degrees and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she also taught writing classes as a lecturer following graduation. She was born and raised in Indianapolis.
Dr. Montross’s first book, Body of Work, was named an Editors’ Choice by The New York Times and one of The Washington Post’s best nonfiction books of 2007. Her second book, Falling Into the Fire, was named a New Yorker Book to Watch Out For. Her latest book, Waiting for an Echo, was named a New York Times Book to Watch For, a Time Magazine Book to Read in July and an Amazon.com Best Book of the Month. She has also written for many national publications including The New York Times, The New England Journal of Medicine, Time Magazine, The Washington Post Book World, Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine.
Dr. Montross has been named a 2017-2018 Faculty Fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities, a 2010 MacColl Johnson Fellow in Poetry, and the winner of the 2009 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Emerging Indiana Authors Award. She has also had several poems published in literary journals, and her manuscript Embouchure was a finalist for the National Poetry Series.