Unfair America: Mentally Ill Inmates

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Junis Citozi
Composition II
Unfair America: Mentally Ill Inmates
Individuals suffering from mental illnesses tend to fall victim to the criminal justice system due to their uncontrollable actions that result from their mental illness symptoms. Within the United States two to three hundred thousand people in prison suffer from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, severe depression, and bipolar disorder. Sadly, the majority of prisons are deficient in providing the appropriate resources to treat these individuals; people with mental illnesses are too frequently socially mistreated, neglected, and misunderstood within the confines of a prison. Prisons are deficient in correctional staff trained to suit mentally ill inmates, in appropriate conditions of confinement, and in proper medical care to help mentally ill inmates recuperate back to a state suitable for society. Through this inexperienced care mentally ill prisoners are constantly suffering from their agonizing symptoms and further digressing from the society which they would otherwise be able to cope with if treated properly. Fortunately for the United States and the communities it encompasses, solutions are available and possible to institute within our prisons to treat these mentally ill individuals, which will benefit our society as a whole and end the avoidable suffering faced by these individuals and their family and friends.

The cause of the immense number of mentally ill prisoners is directly associated with the lack of community health services and the stringent criminal justice system in the US. During the 1960s, mental health hospitals all throughout the US were shut down in attempts to deinstitutionalize this sect of medicine and form community based health centers in their replacement. Unfortunately after the deinstitutionalization of the mental health hospitals, the community based centers were never properly instituted; this left thousands of mentally ill individuals untreated and vulnerable to society. Now left neglected, abandoned, and unaccounted for, massive amounts of these individuals engaged in criminal activity, fell into the grasps of the US justice system and ended up in prisons. From that point forward, prisons became the main housing unit of mentally ill individuals in the US. The flaw struck here is that prisons were not intended to facilitate treatment and housing for the mentally ill, but unfortunately they still bear this role. Prison staffs lack the training to deal with mental illnesses. This lack of training leads to mistreatment of the inmates which leads to exaggeration of the painful symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, irrational mood swings, and incapacitating fears the prisoners face. Still to this day in countless prisons this unregulated neglect persists. In the most radical cases, the conditions which the ill prisons are held in push their already unstable minds into deep levels of psychosis. Psychosis is a disorder in which an individual becomes deeply introverted within himself. This introversion exponentially exaggerates hallucinations, depression, and other symptoms so severely that one loses most if not all sense of reality and the perceivable world. Some conditions these inmates face are filthy and unventilated cells, low water availability, cramped cells, and abuse and taunt from prison staff: practically medieval conditions. What is most tragic about psychosis is, psychosis only develops further within the individual when left untreated, and sadly these prison conditions are counter-therapeutic in this sense. A primary example of psychosis taking over an individual’s mind is expressed by the Alvin Ford case, a psychotic man whom had been put on death row and was in solitary confinement for 4 years. This is an excerpt of a conversation he had with his appointed lawyer after 4 years into solitary confinement. “ Rowland: Have you seen any newspapers or anything

in awhile?
Ford: Yes one....
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