MentallyIll Population in Prison



Thenumber of people with adverse mental illnesses has rapidly increasedin prisons and correction facilities all over the world. This hasmade jails and prisons to become “new small asylums” for thepeople of America. There is a growing change in notion among manyAmerican citizens about prisons for people with mental illness.Specialists in the legal framework attribute the rapid growth innumber of these victims to the deinstitutionalization movement onmany state hospitals dealing with psychiatry issues. While this trendhas continued even in the current days, the population of people withextreme mental illnesses in correction facilities is growing beyondthat of people with similar conditions in state psychiatry hospitals.Treatment of people with mental sicknesses in prisons and jails isvery critical. This is because of the vulnerable nature of theseindividuals that makes them prone to abuses when incarcerated. Ifthese people go untreated for a longer period, their psychiatricconditions worsen (Tyuse and Linhorst, 2005). This makes them leavethe correctional facilities even sicker than they were initially.While legal frameworks have come up with ways of ensuring that theseindividuals have total access to their necessities and are treated inthe rightful way, there is a worrying trend on the rapid increase ofinmates with mental health problems which needs to be looked intowith urgency.

Mentallyill population in prison

Peoplein correctional facilities have the right to get proper medical carejust like other inmates suffering from diseases and conditions likehypertension, tuberculosis and diabetes. The works of this researchare deeply rooted in the works of Dorothea Dix who looked at thetreatment of mentally ill individuals like prisoners as an act ofinhumanity. Dix’s movement led to the establishment of state mentalhospitals with the belief that such individuals required a fairmedical treatment and not punishments. This was later onmisunderstood by authorities that led to emptying of mental hospitalswith poorly planned social changes in the United States (Tyuse andLinhorst, 2005). This paper seeks to describe the services providedby courts dealing with provision of justice for people with mentalhealth problems, analyze how such services are effective inaddressing the requirements of these people, evaluate the success ofcurrent mental health service programs and make proposals forimproving the services provided by these facilities to mentally illindividuals.

ServicesProvided by Mental Health courts

Accordingto the report by the national Alliance on Mental Illness 1993, mentalhealth courts play a very important role in the lives of people withmental illnesses (Lim and Day, 2014). Looking at these systems fromthe perspective of criminal law, there are two underlying therapeuticcourt approaches. First, these systems are required to cushion thepublic by looking into the aspects of mental health that may lead tocriminal activities. If this is done in a very effective way,recidivism will be reduced. Second, legal systems and correctionfacilities should be aware that criminal sanctions intended to punishor deter these individuals have no effectiveness since they are notmorally appropriate considering the fact that such criminal acts mayhave been caused by mental illness. Services provided by thesecourts are deeply enshrined in the goals of these courts. The goalsinclude cutting the cycles of depreciating mental illnesses andbehaviors which are criminal in nature and are brought about byfailure of systems in addressing issues of community mental health.The second goal of these courts is to give options of treatment whichare effective as opposed to the usual sanctions from criminalmanagement systems for criminals with mental healthissues Putting these goals into perspective, the servicesprovided by these courts include making follow ups regardingtreatment and service resources in the facilities where the offendersare taken, providing people with mental illnesses with the bestalternatives to arrest and ensuring that the procedures of thesecourts are more coercive compare to standard criminal courts. Apartfrom these legal services, mental courts are entitled with the roleof ensuring that mental health providers for these systems have highlevels of accountability while keeping any information regardingtheir client private.

Thereare very limited services available to people who lack definiteclassification into priority groups. Mental health courts aim atensuring that such individuals have sufficient access to services andsupport opportunities to cut down the incidences and number of peoplewith mental health problems being involved with the judicial and lawenforcement systems. Systems of criminal justice have a range ofchoices through which diversions and dispositions of these victimsare realized. They have set police diversion programs which haveproven to be effective in preventing the arrest of mentally illpeople who commit minor criminal offences. For people committingserious offences, strategies like community reintegration for thosewho have served in prisons and jails have proven to be among the mosteffective services to people with mental illnesses.

Benefitsof these Services to Prisoners

Mentalhealth prisons and courts have the common goal of ensuring that theirvictims are treated in the proper way to improve their wellness.These systems play the role of diverting individuals with mentalhealth issues into systems dealing with mental health. Mental courtsensure this by providing the required treatment and care to peoplewith mental illnesses. This is done by legislations which allow theprisoners to be transferred to hospitals and psychiatric facilitiesat the stages of arrest, prosecution, trial and imprisonment. Inother instances, laws which restrict the imprisonment of mentally illpeople because of minor criminal offence have been put forth.

Prisonersand legal facilities are encouraged to engage in inter- sectoralcollaborations in which many problems and issues regarding theimprisoned individuals are solved. This is achieved by involving therelevant actors in discussing the requirements of the inmates andcome up with required responses. Despite this, these systems promoteways of adopting legislations dealing with mental health which go amilestone in protecting human rights. Lim and Day (2014) affirm thatcourts play a vital role in ensuring that the conditions in prisonsconform to the standards of international human rights.Prisons andcourts are entitled with the role of ensuring that the families ofthe affected individuals are provided with the required education andinformation on aspects of mental health. Through a deep understandingof the patients, families work towards the reduction of stigma anddiscriminations (Lim and Day, 2014). This reduces further disorderswhile improving the mental health of the affected individuals.

Successof Current Mental Health services

Mentalhealth services have seen tremendous success in the recent past. Thisis fully attributed to the adoption of legislations which effectivelygovern their management and operations. According to the WHO 2007,the adoption of assisted outpatient treatments has ensured thatindividuals with serious mental illnesses are allowed to move out offacilities like hospitals, prisons and jails to seek medicaltreatments needed to avoid relapsing (&quotWHO | Mental healthpolicy, planning &amp service development&quot, 2007). Throughassisted outpatient treatments, people with serious mental problemsare forced to take medications using court orders as their conditionfor living in the community. This method has been very effective inreducing cases of arrest for mentally ill individuals. Anothermeasure of the success of these systems is the successful use ofmental courts. Over the past decade, the use of mental health courtshas greatly increased. Each state of the United States of America hasestablished legal systems which deal with these cases. The courts andcorrection facilities have established the required medicationframeworks which have gone a long way in helping the prisoners(Vogel, Stephens, &amp Siebels, 2014).

Conclusionand Recommendations

Thenumber of people being held in mental health correction facilities isincreasing at a very high rate. The federal government has come upwith a number of ways to ensure that these people get the requiredtreatments which are in line with human rights and legislations.Despite this, due to hurried and less informed decisions, manyproblems have been identified in these systems. In order to improveservices currently offered by these systems this paper recommendsthat the government should shift the funds it provides for anyadditional state funded psychiatry bed to the financial budgets ofthe department of corrections. County mental health departments mustbe pressed to cater for the treatment costs of inmates with mentalillnesses. Second, the department of justice should continuouslycarry out unannounced surveys to have proper statistics of theinmates with mental illnesses. Finally, treatment laws should bereformed to ensure that treatment intervention is done on the basisof standards and not the level of dangerousness of the patient.


Lim,L. &amp Day, A. (2014). Mental Health Diversion Courts: A Two YearRecidivism Study of a South Australian Mental Health Court Program.BehavioralSciences &amp The Law,32(4),539-551.

Tyuse,S. &amp Linhorst, D. (2005). Drug Courts and Mental Health Courts:Implications for Social Work. Health&amp Social Work,30(3),233-240.

Vogel,M., Stephens, K., &amp Siebels, D. (2014). Mental Illness and theCriminal Justice System. SociologyCompass,8(6),627-638.

WHO| Mental health policy, planning &amp service development.(2016). 19 July 2016, from