“We had to pepper spray a guy. He was yelling and out of control. We grabbed the hose later to wash the pepper spray off of him and he resisted, saying that the water was burning him. I knew he had some sort of mental illness, but we kept going.”
Pete*, age 34, guard at the Weld County Jail
*Name changed for privacy
Fifteen percent of the jail, state and federal prisons have something in common, something we might not be so keen to talk about. Fifteen per cent of this population suffers from a mental illness. This is in contrast to the fifty per cent of the general population that will have a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives. After the millions of dollars that have ...view middle of the document...
Want treatment for mental illness in Houston? Go to jail.
Boulder’s officer Joe Pelle cited the drift as well as a population that was embarrassed by being held in mental health institutes, and now we have curbed that embarrassment by locking them up in prison or jail (Jones, 2014).
In Colorado’s budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, it was no surprise to the see mental health and corrections bundled together under “addressing public safety and unmet mental health needs” (The Office of the Governor, 2014). For the 2014-2015 budget, healthcare will receive an additional 7.1-- where mental health accounts for roughly twenty-five per cent of the budget (NAMI, 2009, The Office of the Governor, 2014) -- whereas corrections will receive an additional 6.3 per cent in funding.
COSTS OF INCARCERATING THE MENTALLY ILL
In 2000, the cost of housing a mentally ill inmate was approximately 50,000 dollars each year. The average recidivism rate was 80 per cent if the offender had a mental illness. It costs on average, 140 dollars to treat an inmate for mental illness versus the 12 dollars it costs to enroll him in services at a community mental health center.
Today, the mentally ill are overrepresented in the prison population four to two. Son Ct
The most represented mental illnesses in the corrections system are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, and anti-social personality disorder (Steadman and Veysey, 1997). Recidivism was most prevalent among those who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder closely followed by depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia (University of Texas-San Antonio 2011).
STRATEGIES FOR BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN MENTAL HEALTH AND CORRECTIONS
Crisis intervention training (CIT) is education for law enforcement about properly responding to a mental health crises. This training is a valuable alternative to ignorance when interacting with those who have mental illnesses. However, it has its limitations as well. CIT for an officer or staff member in a corrections facility is forty hours. A corrections social worker, or even a counselor has a minimum of a bachelors’ degree, exhibits proficiency in screening for drugs, assessing mental illness, and has specific certificates relevant to the job, which is well over a thousand hours of education. Many positions also require a minimum of supervised hours. Although the mental health worker is more equip, we have to be realists and acknowledge that those who experience a mental illness are more likely to come in contact with and be housed by law enforcement. However, in the end, they are not being arrested because they are hardened criminals; they are being arrested because they are sick. Some are turned in by their families. Others are arrested on what many know as “mercy bookings,” where the police arrest an individual, not based on the crime they committed, but in order to protect that individual from harm. Groups of...