Woman Arrested 396 Times, Ordered to Attend Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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A 51-year-old woman in Chicago, who has been arrested 396 times in 35 years, made a deal with prosecutors to undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Shermain Miles offered gratitude and apologies to the Cook County judge on Monday after she pleaded guilty to charges that she attacked a city alderman, reported The Associated Press.

She was locked up since December in Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln for a parole violation.

“All of us are reaching out to you and offering you, maybe for the first time in your life, a hand, OK?” said Judge Peggy Chiampas to Miles. “But you’ve got to reach out and grab all of our hands as well.”

“I just want to thank you,” Miles told the judge.

Miles also pleaded guilty to two other charges of trespassing and drinking alcohol on a public way Monday. She was given time-served for all three charges.

Under the plea agreement, Miles will undergo a mental health evaluation and any follow-up treatment. She has a long list of convictions for felonies and misdemeanors. She is also homeless.

The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that 20 to 25 percent of single adults in the homeless population suffer from severe and persistent mental illness.

A 2005 report from The National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 44 million people with serious mental illness have been homeless at some point in their lives.

It is not known if Miles ever received a diagnosis or any treatment for a mental illness.

Psychiatrist and leading researcher on schizophrenia, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, has written on the epidemic of mentally ill people in the homeless population, postulating that deinstitutionalization and the unwillingness to involuntarily commit mentally ill individuals has left hundreds of thousands of this fragile population homeless and many turning to crime.

In 2009, Torrey published “The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens.” In an interview on CSPAN 2’s BookTV, he said: “What prompted me to write the book is this ongoing disaster that I have been observing as a psychiatrist for the last 30 to 40 years ... what we did essentially was we emptied out the state mental hospitals and we were very good at that. What we were not very good at was providing care and treatment for these people once they left the hospital.”

Torrey defined “severely mentally ill” as a person with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

“About one-third of the homeless are severely mentally ill,” he noted. “At least 10 percent of the people in our jails and prisons are severely mentally ill. And this group also is committing about 10 percent of all homicides in the United States, almost all of which are preventable if they are being treated.”

Sources: CBS2 Chicago, The Oregonian