Inmates and mental illness

From the Treatment Advocacy Center:

As reports continue to call for increased mental health staff and services for the criminal justice system, there is little doubt jails and prisions are acting as our country’s de facto mental health system. Is it really prudent to wait until someone has committed a crime to provide treatment, and is prison really the best place to be getting it?

Is it really prudent to commit someone to a hospital if he or she does not pose a criminal risk? It seems that about 16 percent of inmates suffer from a mental illness of some sort. According to the American Psychiatric Association, less than one percent of defendants plead insanity in court. Of that one percent, only 26 percent of the cases resulted in an "insanity" verdict. In 80 percent of the cases where a person is acquitted on charges because of the insanity plea, apparently, the defense and the prosecution had already worked out a deal. If less than one percent of those on trial enter an insanity plea, why is the figure for those with mental illness so high? Is it possible that inmates go crazy in jail? (I’m sure jail is enough to make ANYONE crazy.) Something just seems amiss here.

1 Comment

  1. Gianna said,

    July 5, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    So what’s the suggestion? We should drug people “just in case” they might commit a crime. Are we supposed to use a crystal ball to see just who these people are? And who says treating someone’s mental health issues stops them from simply being criminal?
    Granted, I know there are too many people suffering from mental distress in prison who shouldn’t be there, but this line of thinking is outright dangerous.

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