Given the number of incarcerated inmates who suffer from some form of mental illness, there are growing concerns and questions in the medical field about treatment of the mentally ill in the prison system. When a person with a mental illness commits a crime or break the law, they are immediately taken to jail or sent off to prison instead of being evaluated and placed in a hospital or other mental health facility. “I have always wondered if the number of mentally ill inmates increased since deinstitutionalization” Since prison main focus is on the crimes inmates are incarcerated; the actual treatment needed for the mentally ill is secondary.
Mentally ill prisoners on the surface may appear to be just difficult inmates depending on the degree of outward actions being displayed. For instance, a paranoid inmate may get into a fight simply because he believes he is being followed and/or stalked by other prisoners. It becomes quite clear that the solution for the treatment of the mentally ill is not “Incarceration”. Community Based Treatment Services Accessing treatment is quite difficult when there is such a lack of availability of resources in the community.Throughout the United States there is a need for more mental health treatment and additional housing in the communities. Due to state and federal funding and program cuts, there are more closures of facilities.
The remaining local facilities are extremely overcrowded which impacts treatment. With the increase number of patients, case management services may not be in a position to provide quality care in a timely manner. People have also become less tolerant of the mentally ill offenders.Many of them believe that these offenders deserve a tough prison sentence and that anything less would be too lenient. However, without the proper treatment in prison, these offenders will be back on the streets among society and potentially worse off from a mental standpoint. Deinstitutionalization When I first heard of deinstitutionalization, I thought this could be a good thing. Mental Hospitals, Asylums, Homes or other institutions were going to release mental patients with the intention of providing support and treatment or even rehabilitation from healthcare professions in community ased facilities.
With states closing many of its mental facilities in the communities, there were a lot of people in need of outpatient care who fell through the cracks of the system and ended up in prison. Prison is where many of them died from inadequate treatment. Prisons were suddenly receiving inmates with the following types of mental illnesses: Schizophrenia, bipolar, and deep depressions. These prisons just did not provide these inmates with any medication during their incarceration.
Because the community based health services is lacking, and patients aren’t receiving sufficient outpatient care, it makes the effectiveness of deinstitutionalization a serious problem. Without the availability of 24/7 psychiatric services that are well structured, I believe that deinstitutionalization is what is accounting for the increase of the mentally ill inmates in the correctional facility. Incarcerating the Mentally Ill While most people are concerned and want violent offenders punished and thrown in prison (which is a valid concern), it is rare that violent acts are committed by the mentally ill.For those crimes the mentally ill commits, prison may not always be the right answer; instead, proper treatment and rehabilitation would be much better. In general, the statement has always been made that the cost of prison is more than the cost of the crime.
In the case of the mentally ill, I believe this to be true. The cost per inmate is more than it is per patient in the hospital. Although some psychiatric activities do exist within the criminal justice system, there is not enough of it.Therefore these inmates are controlled, punished and placed under stricter regulation. Prison becomes a much harsher and violent environment than if these mentally ill inmates were patients in a health facility hospital. Conclusion The prison system has little interest in rehabilitating; treating or cleaning up the mentally ill for fear that it will be looked at by the criminal justice system as providing special favors. Therefore, sending the mentally ill convicted of a minor crime to prison just because of the lack of availability in hospitals is an inadequate solution.