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Psychiatric Disorders In The Criminal Justice System

1960 words - 8 pages

Psychiatric Disorders in the Criminal Justice System Prison population has increased by over 50% since the Richmond Report
on deinstitutionalisation (Australian Bureau of Statistics) with 74%
of prisoners in NSW suffering from a psychiatric disorder (Corrections
Health Service). This has caused great concerns with mental illness in
the criminal justice system. Mental institutions were ‘warehouses’ for
the mentally ill and failed to meet basic human rights requirements
and treatment. Yet as a result of institutions closing, more mentally
ill people began filling the prison system. Something needs to be
done about mental illness in prisons and there can be two possible
solutions. Firstly, mentally ill people who have committed crimes are
still criminals therefore treatment that is required can be fulfilled
while in prison. Also, prison staff are uneducated in areas of mental
health and illness, so staff should be well equipped and educated to
deal with such people and adequate diagnosis must be given and early
rather than later. Treatment in prison can be described through many
of the perspectives. The second option is to never allow mentally ill
people to be in prison, through proper diagnosis and treatment which
can be described through many of the perspectives in specialised care
and rehabilitation.

As mental institutions closed patients were left to fend for
themselves and to choose what their needs and treatments were, and
since many people could not, or did not want to, recognise their
illness (‘agnosia’) many patients ceased medication which resulted in
destitution and subsequently getting themselves involved in criminal
activity.

A mentally ill person who has committed a crime and a mentally ill
person who has not, cannot receive the same comfort from their
treatment. Treatment of course is needed but can occur within prison.
A major problem is that prison staff are not educated on the facts of
mental illness, therefore do not know how to treat these people. In
some cases mentally ill prisoners have been locked in an isolated cell
for up to twenty-three hours which makes matters worse (See Appendix
4). Prison staff are not mental health professionals; quite the
opposite in fact as their lack of knowledge worsens the situation.

More accessible health care professionals are needed as there is a
shortage of health care professionals to be able to properly deal with
mental issues.

To help with this issue there needs to be early and proper diagnosis.
A lot of prisoners have been found to have mental illness as they have
exhibited symptoms of mental illness over a period of time and it is
not detected early enough. Going by the DSM IV is a safe way to
diagnose people with...

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