Alisa Roth

Alisa Roth—March 12, 2019

Video of Alisa Roth’s talk on March 12.

Journalist examines the mental health crisis in prisons

Alisa Roth, journalist and author of Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness, will serve as the 2018–19 speaker for the University of Oregon’s Lorwin Lectureship on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Roth’s work is an investigation into the crisis of mental illness in the U.S. criminal justice system. She writes, “One of the most horrific—and least acknowledged—effects of mass incarceration is the epidemic of mental illness in our jails and prisons.” Roth’s lecture, titled “America’s Hidden Mental Health Crisis,” will take place on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. in 156 Straub Hall. 

In uncovering this crisis, Roth traveled around the country to police departments, courts, jails, and emergency health-care facilities; interviewed current and former prisoners and their families, mental health professionals, lawyers, and police; and conducted research using public records and other source materials. She writes, “Mental illness affects every aspect of the criminal justice system—from policing, to the courts, to prisons, and beyond. Nor are the effects limited to the criminal justice system; many people with mental illness cycle back and forth between jail or prison and living in the community.” 

She continues, “People with mental illness are among the most disadvantaged members of our society, and when they end up in the criminal justice system, they tend to fare worse than others.” Roth hopes her work on this crisis will help “to end the abuses and to bring more compassion and common sense into the way we approach mental illness in our society.” 

Roth is a former staff reporter at Marketplace, and her work has appeared on NPR, and in The New York Times and New York Review of Books. Roth was also awarded a prestigious Soros Justice Fellowship, which has the goal to “fund outstanding individuals to undertake projects that advance reform, spur debate, and catalyze change on a range of issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system. The fellowships are part of a larger effort within the Open Society Foundations to reduce the destructive impact of current criminal justice policies on the lives of individuals, families, and communities in the United States by challenging the overreliance on incarceration and extreme punishment, and ensuring a fair and accountable system of justice.”

Alisa Roth's bookRoth’s lecture is free and open to the public and will be live streamed. J. Michaels Books will be selling Roth’s book at the event. For information, or disability accommodations (which must be made by March 5th), please call (541) 346-3934 or contact 

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