Mentally Ill In Prisons

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Abstract The presence of severely mentally ill persons in jails and prisons is an urgent problem. This review examines this problem and makes recommendations for preventing and alleviating it. Results and Clinical studies suggest that 6 to 15 percent of persons in city and county jails and 10 to 15 percent of persons in state prisons have severe mental illness. Offenders with severe mental illness generally have acute and chronic mental illness and poor functioning. It appears that a greater proportion of mentally ill persons are arrested compared with the general population. Factors cited as causes of mentally ill persons' being placed in the criminal justice system are deinstitutionalization, more rigid criteria for civil commitment,…show more content…
Generally, persons who are thought to have committed a felony are arrested and brought to jail regardless of their mental condition. The criminal justice system, charged by society with the responsibility for removing from the community persons accused of committing serious crimes, sees no alternative but to first place the person in custody in a secure setting and then arrange for psychiatric treatment if necessary. If the person is thought to have committed a serious crime, the police and the criminal justice system generally do not want to leave this person in a psychiatric hospital where security may be lax, the offense may be seen by staff as secondary to the patient's illness, and the person may be released to the community in a relatively short time. For persons charged with misdemeanors, the situation becomes more complex. The distinction between arrest and incarceration of mentally ill persons who have committed minor offenses and those who have committed serious offenses is an important one. Generally, clinical studies suggest that 10 to 15 percent of persons in state prisons have severe mental illness. It may be that in recent years, correctional staffs have become better able to recognize signs of mental disturbance and, as a result, refer more of these individuals to mental health professionals. Thus better recognition may also contribute to…show more content…
In another kind of situation, people who have just been assaulted by a psychotic person are frequently not inclined to be sympathetic to their assailant even when mental disturbance is evident. Thus an angry citizen may insist on signing a citizen's arrest and having the person taken to jail. The public has traditionally believed that any sentence other than prison is too lenient for serious offenders, even if they are mentally ill. Some view mental illness as volitional and perhaps a deliberate attempt to avoid punishment. Still another important factor is the public's fear of mentally ill persons who commit criminal offenses. The public's growing intolerance of perpetrators, whether mentally ill or not, is demonstrated by its acceptance of and desire for more restrictive detention laws for offenders. With respect to offenders with mental disorders, some states have repealed sexual psychopathology laws that permitted mental health treatment for sex offenders rather than criminal processing and imprisonment. Diminished capacity, which can be a factor in granting a more lenient sentence, has also been repealed in a number of states. Legislation has been passed whereby offenders with mental disorders in prison can have their periods of social control extended if they are identified as dangerous before their parole date or the

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