Mentally Ill in Prison
Tisha R. Gilmore
There are many mentally disabled individuals incarcerated in U. S. jails today. Their disabilities range from those born with mental retardation, to those with traumatic brain injuries from being involved in accidents, and include those with chemical imbalances due to natural causes or drug addictions. These people are treated as criminals and not as patients. Jails are not the place for this population. Keeping them incarcerated for long periods of time would be more traumatic than helpful. Service and support is needed for these people. Steps should be taken to screen new inmates for mental health issues and treat them accordingly. Treatment plans, therapy and community supports are other solutions to incarceration. Laws should be put in place to ensure these individuals get a fair chance in society.
Working as a corrections officer in a Texas prison, I discovered there were an abundant number of mentally disabled individuals that were incarcerated. When asked about their crimes, it shocked me the number that had been incarcerated repeatedly for petty crimes that were enhanced because to their behavior issues. It also surprised me that some of these individuals were not getting the medications they normally took on the outside. I began to look into services and supports for these people and found very little. There needs to be state laws put into place and agencies to assist these people. Providing professional treatment to mentally disabled offenders is a more successful alternative to incarceration. There are a growing number of mentally disabled individuals in our penal system. The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports there is currently about 1.25 million people incarcerated in US Correctional Institutions. According to Fellner (2006), “11% of this population is mentally ill offenders.” Due to the closures of state hospital facilities, and the...
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