Arthur “Brian” Traweek, 32, considered a positive example of the success of a court program aimed at helping mentally ill criminals turn their lives around, was found dead in the Kennebec County, Maine, jail Monday. His death was an apparent suicide, according to the Kennebeck Journal. Traweek was one of the first graduates of the county’s Co-Occurring Disorders Court program last February. It accepts people accused of felonies who have a co-occurring disorder — a hand-in-hand disease of either multiple-diagnosed mental illnesses, or a mental illness and harmful addiction. These conditions range from drug abuse to criminal activity to self-harming.
The program stresses personal accountability and the importance of participants taking the initiative in turning their lives around, not relying on a caseworker. Last May, Traweek gave the Journal a poignant, candid view of the life of a person who has a co-occurring disorder. He was awaiting sentencing on at theft charge at the time of his death. His apparent suicide is a sign of challenges county jails and state prisons are facing as they try to accommodate the increasing number of mentally ill people behind bars, officials from Maine Civil Liberties Union say. “As we see more and more mentally ill people being held in our jails and prisons, we continue to have concerns: What happens when incarceration happens rather than treatment?” said an ACLU official. An estimated 68 percent of Maine’s total prison and jail population have a co-occurring disorder, which does not include those with undiagnosed mental illnesses.