Mental Illness In The Criminal Justice System

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The rising population of inmates with mental illness is steadily rising, 'Today, some 283,800 state and local inmates are identified as having a mental illness, representing 16% of the inmate populations”. The rising epidemic of prisoners with a mental illnesses is beginning to complicate many prison programs across the United States. Very little of the inmate population is diagnosed with a serious mental disability until they are incarcerated. As mental health professionals see a spike in mental illness in inmates, they begin to rethink the consequences of crimes committed by the ill. Criminals with mental illness should be punished the same as all criminals due to the help they can receive in prison, the possibility they may commit another crime, and the unlikeliness of seeking help after being let out of jail.

Before prison, many individuals with a mental illness are not able to seek professional help, leading to crime. A study conducted by The National Alliance of Mental Illness stated, 'In a mental health crisis, people are more likely to encounter police than get medical help. As a result, 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails each year. Nearly 15% of men and 30% of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition.”In many cases, criminals with mental disabilities do not receive any help before they enter prison which may worsen their disability. Prisoning criminals with mental illness will provide them with programs to better their health and keep them out of the law system. The crimes committed by the mentally ill and their failed ability to seek help before law enforcement intervenes leaves criminals to take responsibility for their actions and undergo treatment in prison.

Mentally ill individuals receive the help that is needed through professionals inside of inmate programs regardless of any crime committed. The Federal Bureau of Prisons stated, “All Bureau facilities employ psychologists skilled in the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders. Although the Bureau concentrates mental health resources at some institutions, all institutions, regardless of care level, are expected to provide services for inmates with mental illness”. In any condition, criminals that are admitted to a program through the prison for the mentally ill are always taken care of regardless of their crime. There would never be a reason for any criminal not getting the help that is needed or harming anything more because they are undergoing treatment in prison. Criminals with mental disabilities become oblivious to their actions and do not realize the care that is needed, through treatment many will become aware of what is needed for themselves and begin their positive road to recovery through the help of prison.

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As the rise in mental illness becomes a rising concern, a variety of different programs have been put into place for hundreds of prisons across the United States. The Council of State Governments, the organization across the United States working to achieve more funding for mental illness programs in prison, states their goal, “CSG works with a bipartisan, multidisciplinary group made of law enforcement, corrections administrators, leaders in the mental health community, state budget officials and state elected officials to tackle the complex but pressing problem of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system”. Expanding budgets in mental health sectors across the United States will begin to decrease the number of criminals in prison that are mentally ill. Giving individuals this help, will over time lessen the amount of crime committed and even aid the rising statistics of mental illness as a whole. Also, adding more mental health programs will improve the many communities as a whole. As many jails and prisons begin to widen their programs for the mentally ill there will be much improvement in the state of mind of many of the criminals.

State and local prisons have also taken the rising epidemic amongst themselves to see change throughout their prisons and jails, making sure that their inmates get the care that is needed. Many states have created programs similar to each other, one being California. California has created a program to help the mentally ill and substance abusers in jail. They have put millions of dollars into this program and have brought many professionals into the prison to start aiding the criminals that need it. These professionals run a variety of tests on criminals and then, based on the results, place them in an in-jail program to provide them the help that is needed. Some prisoners, depending on their sentence, will be exported to a containment program in a hospital. These criminals have the most concerning mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia and Psychosis. It has become clear that many state and local prisons have become awakened to the rising concern of the mental illness crisis. Pouring more and more money into the mental health program in prisons every year, there is no end to the help that will be provided in prisons and jails. Also, by putting this great amount of money towards mental illness, it will show the criminals that their health is cared for and many will be more willing to improve because most have never had an opportunity to better themselves. This will better maintain and regulate the mentally ill prisoners' relationships with each other and others as well, many may even learn to trust people such as their physiatrists. As statistics of criminals with mental illness have been decreasing in prisons, there has also been a very large decrease of the same criminals on the streets, committing the same crimes.

Taking the mentally ill into prison will greatly reduce the crime rate, making the criminals unable to commit any more crimes. Police are growing tired of resolving issues on the day-to-day basis of the same criminals committing the same crimes. Many of these criminals have made it clear to the law that they have a mental illness and are not receiving the help that is needed. These criminals are taken to mental health facilities time after time but usually fail to help themselves. When criminals are repeatedly known for committing crimes and even trying to be helped by law enforcement action needs to be taken. The same crimes cannot be recurring for the safety of the citizens and the criminal. Also, if law enforcement did not have the issue of always having to look out for the mentally ill they would in return help many more individuals. Taking mentally ill criminals into custody will prevent the possibility of a recurring crime and will protect the citizens and the criminal from further harm.

Mentally ill criminals have much greater crime rates after being released from prison than nay regular offenders. The mentally ill are known to be more violent than many criminals that do not suffer from a severe mental disability. When released from prison, the mentally ill have a far greater chance of any kind of violent offenses than another ex-prisoner. This may depend on the type of disability as well. One in five incarcerated individuals that step foot into prison requires a great amount of help. Criminals with a mental illness have a much better chance of being helped in prison rather than by themselves. There is a much larger amount of criminals committing crimes with mental illness than any other cause and many of the crimes committed by the ill are more violent. There is a way to prevent these crimes from happening and that is through the containment of these specific individuals. Putting these people into prison and treating the ones who need it will lower more violent crime rates and decrease the number of criminals with mental disabilities roaming the streets.

If released, criminals that suffer from any kind of uncured mental illness are more likely to commit more than another crime again. Statistics show the numbers of criminals who are uncured compared to those who are, “Within three years of being released, 37 percent of inmates who leave state prisons with mental illnesses are locked up again, compared with 30 percent of those who do not have mental health problems, according to a Department of Correction analysis of 2012 releases”. Far many more criminals with mental illness commit crimes after they are let off or finish their sentence. They will then not be provided any of the help that they were receiving on a day-to-day basis and will most likely not seek any further help. Over time this may lead unstable mentally ill criminals to resort back to their younger selves, getting themselves into more trouble than they already were in. Locking up the mentally ill and providing them with the services that are needed will benefit them in the long run and keep them from reoffending.

As we see a spike in the mental health epidemic many state and local prisons and jails are beginning to realize the effect it has on many of their criminals. Funding has been put in place to support mentally ill criminals in jail and aid them in their road to recovery. No matter the crime, any prisoner will receive the help that is needed them. Criminals with mental illness should be punished the same as all criminals due to the help they can receive in prison, the possibility they may commit another crime, and the unlikeliness of seeking help after being let out of jail. 

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