• by Pete Earley
  • Narrated by Michael Prichard
  • 11 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Pete Earley had no idea. He'd been a journalist for over 30 years, and the author of several award-winning, even best-selling, nonfiction books about crime and punishment and society. Yet he'd always been on the outside looking in. He had no idea what it was like to be on the inside looking out until his son, Mike, was declared mentally ill, and Earley was thrown headlong into the maze of contradictions, disparities, and catch-22s that is America's mental health system. The more Earley dug, the more he uncovered the bigger picture: our nation's prisons have become our new mental hospitals. Crazy tells two stories. The first is his son's. The second describes what Earley learned during a year-long investigation inside the Miami-Dade County jail, where he was given complete, unrestricted access. There, and in the surrounding community, he shadowed inmates and patients; interviewed correctional officers, public defenders, prosecutors, judges, mental-health professionals, and the police; talked with parents, siblings, and spouses; consulted historians, civil rights lawyers, and legislators.
The result is both a remarkable piece of investigative journalism, and a wake-up call; a portrait that could serve as a snapshot of any community in America.


What the Critics Say

"Parents of the mentally ill should find solace and food for thought in its pages." (Publishers Weekly)
"Crazy is a godsend. It will open the minds of many who make choices for the mentally ill." (Patty Duke)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Excellent expose, but...

This book is well-written (and narrated), with the kind of investigative breadth that left me feeling as if I had actually been able to briefly glimpse many sides of the issue: the mentally ill, their loved ones, and the medical / mental health / law enforcement / social work / correctional systems.

However, I feel disturbed by the author's insistence on --- and one-sided justifications for --- the need for commitment law reform (i.e., the ability for a non-professional third-party to have someone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility), where he seems to argue in favor of removing controls which have been implemented in favor of civil rights. He focuses entirely on the negative consequences of these laws on the mentally ill, without giving even a nod to the fact that those laws are also in place to protect the non-mentally ill from being falsely committed.

Having intellectually struggled with issues of our current correctional / prison system, I keep coming to the same conclusion across a myriad of topics --- with freedom comes risk. This is true across criminal justice, social justice, medical / mental health, foreign policy, domestic security / counter-terrorism, etc.

If I want to be free from being falsely accused of mental illness and thrown into an asylum against my will, or charged as a terrorist under some blanket domestic security law (Patriot Act) and held indefinitely without any civil rights, or arrested for an activity newly criminalized (for the purpose of allowing our politicians to run on a "tough on crime" platform), then I have to assume the risk as a citizen. Which means living in a world where criminals are given the benefit of the doubt until proven guilty or let go, the mentally ill can avoid being involuntarily held / drugged unless they pose a threat to themselves / society, and social / political activists can speak their mind and cultivate dissent without fear of being thrown into a gulag by the police state. If I want to have those freedoms for myself, then I have to live in a society with criminal, mentally unstable, and controversial elements in my community. And if I want to solve those problems for myself and my loved ones, I have to do so at the family and community levels. However, it will NOT solve the problem to eliminate the civil rights of the mentally ill, because mental illness is simply a label and it can be applied to any one of us at any time. Decreasing their civil rights is the same as decreasing every American's civil rights.
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- AC

Harrowing, Heart-Breaking

Mr. Earley has written an important book, and he weaves his son's personal story into a well-researched narrative.

I learned a great deal about the history of treating mental illnesses in the U.S., as well as the Catch-22 implicit in many current US state laws, which place a premium on individual rights protection at the expense of appropriate treatment for the mentally ill. The result is that many mentally ill people end up in prisons for decades -- having fallen through the cracks in the health care system.

It is not a happy story; however, it is an important story -- a must for those working in local police forces or prisons, public policy makers in the area of health, and those who have family members suffering from a mental illness. Written accessibly, the book is easy to understand, and well-narrated.

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- C. Anne

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-01-2006
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio