The Importance Of Diagnosing And Treating Inmates With Mental Illness

1507 words - 6 pages

In the early and mid 1900’s the U.S went through a period know as deinstitutionalization, where patients in mental facilities were reintroduced into society. This action was sparked by the introduction of antipsychotic drugs and the lack of funding to house and maintain mentally ill patients. This was to help not only the financial restraints of the government but to help each of the patients within the facilities by giving them the ability to live a fulfilling life without confinement. In the last few decades changes in the United States judicial system such as mandatory prison sen¬tences, longer prison terms, and more restrictive release policies have lead to an exponential increase in the number of inmates located within the jails and prisons. Currently, there are more than two million individuals incarcerated in the United States. Psychiatric illnesses within correctional populations are excessively higher compared with the general population. Currently more than half of all in¬mates have a diagnosis of a mental illness. Correctional facilities are legally obligated to diagnosis and treat the medical and mental health needs of the individuals committed to them. As a result, more psychologists and psychiatrists are practicing in jails and prisons. While the act of deinstitutionalization was to help people with mental illness live fulfilling lives it seems to have made a full circle back to institutionalization. This paper will discuss the view points of how the current system is inadequate in all areas and must have a complete overhaul so that mentally ill prisoners are not lost in the system, how the current U.S prison system adequately diagnosis and treats prisoners suffering from mental illness, and how the current system is adequate in most areas but needs refinement and advancement to handle large amount of prisoners suffering from mental illness.
Many individuals feel the only way to repair the United States current system of diagnosing and treating inmates with mental illness is to completely rewrite the system and increase funding. Kathryn A. Burns writes in her article, Psychiatry behind bars: Practicing in jails and prisons, that despite the increase in the number of psychologists and psychiatrists practicing within the jail and prison system, most have had little or in some cases no training, education, or even orientation for these types of settings. While forensic psychiatry fellowship requirements include experience in treating acutely and chronically ill patients in correctional systems. Although general psychiatric training doesn’t discourage correctional ex¬perience, it is not a requirement. Any forensic requirements of general psychiatric residency are limited to evaluation of forensic issues, report writing, and testimony. Burns continues to describe in her article how even with the 1976 United States Supreme Court ruling, stating that the “unnecessary and wanton inflic¬tion of pain”… proscribed by the Eighth Amendment was...

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