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The Mentally Ill Locked Up… In Jail?

1269 words - 6 pages

Since the mid 1900s, individuals with mental illness have been sent to jail rather than to receive proper treatment. These patients should be able to receive treatment and care because it will be increasing the safety of not only the person themselves but also others surrounding them.
Every year, nonviolent people are incarcerated for crimes that do not threaten the safety of others only because they have a mental illness. Because of this, 25-30% of inmates are mentally ill (McClealland 16). To prevent this, most jurisdictions have at least one criterion that is reflected on whether or not a person is posing a danger to themselves or others. Some other criteria which can also be connected to a danger such as a disability or inability to provide for one's basic human needs or that some treatment would be crucial for ones wells being. But being committed requires proof that hospitalizing the patient will be the least restrictive in addition to showing a sign of being dangerous ("Commitment." 26). Court stated that involuntary commitment procedures restrict a harmless person to live safely outside an institution despite the fact that they are mentally ill ("Commitment." 27). Polly Jackson Spencer, Bexar County Judge states, “We don't want to send people to jail if they are not a threat to society” (Dayak, Meena, and Gonzales 24). Forcing harmless individuals into jail will not help their illness. In fact, it will only worsen it. Jails are incapable of handling unstable individuals. Because of their incompetence to help inmates, there is a high number of mentally ill being beaten, mistreated, and killed by guards, or ultimately killing themselves (McClealland 16). Many jails don't even test their incoming inmates for any mental illness they may have (Bower n. pag.). Even the police are lacking in skill to handle the mentally disturbed. People who show signs of mental disturbance at the time of a police encounter are more likely to be arrested (Draine and Solomon 167). But even after jail time, inmates’ mental illness had most likely grown worse due to lack of proper care and treatment. After being released from jail, inmates with illness are usually supplied with a short supply of medication and enough resourced for transportation. Without housing or health services, they typically return to behavior that can lead to re-incarceration (Barrett, Slaughter, and Jarrett 35). The chance of mental inmates returning to jail after the previous release is 70 percent (Barrett, Slaughter, and Jarrett 35).
Treatment is the main factor in helping one with mental illness to get better. For some people, jail is seen as a place of treatment and care (Draine and Solomon 167). This encourages people to commit crimes so they are arrested and taken to a place with “treatment”. But in actuality, jails are ill equipped to deal with such a large number of severely disturbed individuals (Bower n. pag.). Fortunately, there are programs to help these patients receive...

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