Taking no chance
The mentally ill routinely fall through the cracks of our social service system.
Given the fallout from the mass shooting at a public school in Newtown, Conn., it's no surprise that local authorities moved quickly when a man who lives near St. Joseph-Ogden High School started making threats.
Uriah N. Fosdick, who is being held on $750,000 bond in the Champaign County Jail, faces charges of making a terrorist threat.
But the criminal charge filed against him is less important than ensuring Fosdick is detained until his issues are addressed — like through civil commitment.
Under the laws of civil commitment, individuals can be taken into custody and forced to submit to court edicts if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
Fosdick might meet one or both standards, according to authorities.
If that proves to be the case, he could ultimately be committed to a state mental hospital, where he will receive treatment.
The civil commitment process is a far better tool than using the blunderbuss of a Class X felony prosecution.
It is extremely unfortunate that our criminal justice system often becomes the means by which the problems of the mentally ill are addressed. But it's an indisputable fact that individuals suffering from mental problems are mostly ignored unless and until they run afoul of the law.
Perhaps the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., will prompt a change in approach. Lord knows, it provides considerable grounds for serious soul-searching.