Mental Illness From Birmingham Jail Analysis

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Criminalization of the Mentally Ill The mentally ill have been included in the general population of criminals for centuries, but only recently has mental illness been considered in crimes and the prison system. A controversial exception to the institutionalization of the mentally ill is the question of if they are mentally stable enough to deserve such a punishment. It is generally accepted that one out of every five inmates in jails today are mentally ill, and if a person is so mentally detached, should they be held responsible? This question has no one answer since just like the crimes people commit, the mental stability of each prisoner varies greatly. However one thing is for sure, that people with these mental illnesses and disabilities…show more content…
This process however, is largely generalized, leading to unreliable screenings which allow many with mental illness to enter the general prison population. In the report, “Mental Illness at Reception into Prison”, Luke Birmingham and his colleagues discuss the flaws in the mental screening process and attempt to find ways to improve it. The study found that “while one in four men entering prison on remand suffered from some form of mental disorder, the prison reception screen failed to identify over three-quarters of them” (Birmingham et al.) This statistic indicates an apparent flaw in the mental screening process. Birmingham goes on to claim that “of the 26% of unconvicted, newly remanded male prisoners who suffered from some form of mental illness … only a minority became known to the prison health service during their time spent on remand” (Birmingham et al.). One of the main issues associated with the process is an understaffed, under qualified mental health system. At the prison where Birmingham conducted his study, “staffing levels were reported as being critically low most of the time” (Birmingham et al.). Insufficient staffing leaves only a small number of healthcare workers screening all of the inmates entering the prison. “Four permanent vacancies meant that during the study period the screening work, along…show more content…
While violence exists in all prisons, allowing mentally ill patients into general prison populations leaves them to be unnecessarily subjected violence. By comparing inmates with mental disorders against those without mental disorders, Blitz found a relationship between mental illness and violence, claiming “Rates of physical victimization for males with any mental disorder were 1.6 times (inmate-on-inmate) and 1.2 times (staff-on-inmate) higher than that of males with no mental disorder” (Blitz). With 38.4% of mentally stable inmates experiencing one or more forms of violence, this equates to 61.4% of mentally ill inmates being subjected to violence. Additionally, “the threat of retaliation inside prison for ‘snitching’ suggests that these rates are even higher. Blitz claims violence “is primarily a by-product of confining a large number of people with antisocial tendencies or behavior in close and frequently overcrowded quarters characterized by material and social deprivation” (Blitz). In the prison environment, inmates without mental illness, deprived of the amenities of the free population, are likely to prey on vulnerable groups, often choosing the mentally ill. E.F. Morrison claims, in his article “Victimization in Prison: Implications for the Mentally Ill Inmate and for Health Professionals”,

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