Sentenced to prison without a crime: mental health patients locked up in New Hampshire

Douglas Butler was confused. He thought his son, Andrew Butler, had been transferred to another, more secure psychiatric hospital. But when he drove to the address of the secure psychiatric unit on the outskirts of New Hampshire’s capital of Concord, he couldn’t see anything that resembled a hospital.

Instead, he saw the coils of razor wire and imposing walls of the New Hampshire state prison for men
“They claim it’s a psychiatric hospital. But it’s nothing of the kind,” said the older Butler. “It’s a dang prison. That’s all it really is.”

Butler, then 21, had been charged with no crime. But for the mentally ill deemed too much of a danger to themselves or others to remain at New Hampshire hospital – the state’s lone psychiatric hospital – that can mean a transfer to the secure psychiatric unit (SPU) at the prison, where Butler was dressed in a prison jumpsuit and kept in solitary confinement.

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