Should really the mentally ill be placed in the mainstream population of a prison?

Probabilities are you have never ever offered significantly – if any – believed to this query. A paranoid schizophrenic kills somebody mainly because the voices in his head inform him that particular person is an alien attempting to steal his brain. Is that schizophrenic secure in a prison? Are the other prisoners secure with him (or her) there?

A particular person suffering with serious bipolar disorder shoplifts an armload of clothes for the duration of an attack of acute mania. He or she is sent to prison, to co-exist with gangbangers, rapists, and murderers. Or, maybe worse, to reside in a solitary cell with no human interaction, for 23 out of 24 hours every single day. The acute mania shifts to serious depression. What are the possibilities he or she will survive the prison term?

According to the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 1998 roughly 300,000 inmates had some type of mental illness. A decade later, that quantity rose to 1.25 million.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) states that 16 % of the prison population can be classified as severely mentally ill. This suggests that they match the psychiatric classification for illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and main depression. Having said that, the percentage skyrockets to as higher as 50 % when altered to consist of other mental illnesses, such as anti-social character disorder, and borderline character disorder.

Two main causes attribute to the rise of mentally ill inmates:

  • “Deinstitutionalization” – the procedure of closing down mental hospitals all through the nation. This started in the 1950s but gained powerful momentum in the 1980s.

    In the 1950s, the U.S. had 600,000 state run hospital beds for these suffering from any type of mental illness. Simply because of deinstitutionalization and the subsequent cutting of state and federal funding, the U.S. now has just 40,000 beds for the mentally ill. The inability to get appropriate therapy left this segment of our population vulnerable and, consequently, lots of of them now land in prisons.

  • The second problem is the tougher sentencing laws implemented in the 1980s and 1990s. This is specifically correct with the advent and pursuit of our “War on Drugs”. Individuals with mental illness use and abuse drugs at a larger price than the basic population. They are also much more probably to get caught, arrested, and imprisoned.

Deinstitutionalization hasn't worked. All this has managed to do is to shift the mentally ill from hospitals to prisons – 1 institution to a further. We have produced it a crime to be mentally ill.

The biggest psychiatric facility in the U.S. is not a hospital it really is a prison. At any offered time, Rikers Island in New York City homes an estimated three,000 mentally ill prisoners. The typical inmate population at Rikers Island is 14,000. 1 out of every single four to five inmates at this prison endure from mental illness.

Florida judge Steven Leifman, who chairs the Mental Wellness Committee for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, states that, “The sad irony is we did not deinstitutionalize, we have reinstitutionalized-from horrible state mental hospitals to horrible state jails. We do not even give therapy for the mentally ill in jail. We're just warehousing them.”

What takes place to the mentally ill in an overcrowded, violent prison program with tiny to no psychological counseling out there?

In state prisons, the mentally ill serve an typical of 15 months longer than the typical inmate. The incredibly nature of most mental illnesses tends to make it challenging to adhere to prison guidelines. These inmates are much more probably to be involved in prison fights and they have a tendency to accumulate much more conduct violations.

Prison employees generally punishes mentally ill inmates for becoming disruptive, refusing to comply with orders, and even for attempting suicide. In other words, these inmates are punished for exhibiting the symptoms of their illness.

Gaining parole is also much more challenging for the mentally ill. Their disciplinary records are generally spotty, they may well have no family members prepared or capable to assist, and neighborhood solutions are generally inadequate.

In October 2003, Human Rights Watch released a report entitled Ill Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness. Following two years of in-depth analysis, this organization discovered that couple of prisons have sufficient mental well being care solutions. In addition, it discovered that the prison atmosphere is hazardous and debilitating for the mentally ill.

An excerpt from Ill Equipped:

“Safety employees generally view mentally ill prisoners as challenging and disruptive, and spot them in barren higher-safety solitary confinement units. The lack of human interaction and the restricted mental stimulus of twenty-4-hour-a-day life in compact, from time to time windowless segregation cells, coupled with the absence of sufficient mental well being solutions, significantly aggravates the suffering of the mentally ill. Some deteriorate so severely that they ought to be removed to hospitals for acute psychiatric care. But following becoming stabilized, they are then returned to the very same segregation circumstances exactly where the cycle of decompensation starts once more. The penal network is as a result not only serving as a warehouse for the mentally ill, but, by relying on incredibly restrictive housing for mentally ill prisoners, it is acting as an incubator for worse illness and psychiatric breakdowns.”

According to Fred Osher, M.D., director of the Center for Behavioral Wellness, Justice and Public Policy at the University of Maryland, the majority of mentally ill inmates are arrested for misdemeanors and crimes of survival. He states, “That is a complete host of people who land in the criminal justice program mainly because of their behavioral problems.”

These on the fringe of society are mostly impacted. These men and women are practically normally impoverished and disabled by their illness. They have nowhere to turn, no 1 to assist them, and so we toss them in prison. Even minor offenses maintain them locked in prisons, due to the fact lots of can not afford and/or do not know how to bond themselves out.

The recidivism price amongst the mentally ill is larger than that amongst the basic prison population. Prison has develop into a revolving door program for dealing with mental illness. By default, prisons have develop into the new mental hospitals. Having said that, they lack the funding and the instruction to deal with these patient-inmates.

Ratan Bhavnani, executive director of the Ventura County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, states that, “In basic, men and women with mental illness can recover when offered the acceptable therapy rather than to be sent off to jail only to develop into much more psychotic and come back and reoffend.”

Michael Jung of Ventura, California suffers from bipolar and hears voices telling him that he is the devil. More than the previous 10 years, Jung has been arrested a minimum of 15 instances – all for reasonably minor offenses. Earlier this year, Jung spent six weeks confined in G Quad, the unit exactly where mentally ill inmates remain in their cells 23 out of the 24 hours in every single day.

Cells such as these in G Quad are referred to as the “rubber rooms” mainly because the walls are padded. There is no furnishings in these rooms. The “toilet” is a grate in the floor. They are stripped naked and monitored by way of video camera. Inmates who are paranoid, delusional, or otherwise challenging to handle are generally placed in this variety of cell, irrespective of whether for their personal protection, the security of the other inmates, or just plain comfort.

Susan Abril, a former inmate who suffers from bipolar disorder, was placed in this variety of cell. Throughout her confinement, Abril started hearing voices for the initially time. “I did not sleep,” she stated. “I mentally went insane becoming locked down 23 hours of 24.”

We are basically generating the mentally ill inmates sicker, as properly as making certain their return to an currently massively overcrowded prison program. Certainly our present program is not operating. We can not anticipate prison employees to function as psychiatrists. We also can not anticipate the mentally ill to be “rehabilitated” in a mainstream prison program.

The Taxpayer Action Board for Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois cited annual savings in the tens of millions of dollars that could be gained by releasing thousands of non-violent offenders, closely monitoring them and offering substance abuse therapy, mental well being counseling, education, job instruction, and employment possibilities.

For the most portion, the mentally ill do not belong in prison. It would be less expensive (and smarter) for us as taxpayers to divert funding in order to give sufficient therapy applications to maintain them out of prison.