Incarceration of The Mentally Ill

analytical Essay
1782 words
1782 words

The United States criminal justice system has been continuously increasing incarceration among individuals who suffer from a sever mental illness. As of 2007 individuals with severe mental illness were over twice as likely to be found in prisons than in society (National Commission of Correctional Health Care, 2002, as cited in Litschge &Vaughn, 2009). The offenses that lead to their commitment in a criminal facility, in the majority of cases, derive from symptoms of their mental illness instead of deviant behavior. Our criminal justice system is failing those who would benefit more from the care of a psychiatric rehabilitation facility or psychiatric hospital by placing them in correctional facilities or prisons. Definitions Mental Illness The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2000) explains the complexity of defining a mental disorder, “although this manual provides a classification of mental disorders, it must be admitted that no definition adequately specifies precise boundaries for the concept of "mental disorder". The concept of mental disorder, like many other concepts in medicine and science, lacks a consistent operational definition that covers all situations” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, Introduction, para.29). For the purpose of this paper the mental illnesses which are referred are categorized by those identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which include sever mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, dissociative disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders, along with personality disorders. The Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation (2009) explains the complexity of mental disorders; someone can display symptoms of a mental illness over the co... ... middle of paper ... .... The mentally ill offender treatment and crime reduction act of 2004: problems and prospects. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 20(4), 542-558. doi:10.1080/14789940802434675 National Association of Social Workers. (2008). NASW Code of Ethics (Guide to the Everyday Professional Conduct of Social Workers). Washington, DC: NASW. Pustilnik, A. C. (2005). Prisons of the mind: social value and economic inefficiency in the criminal justice response to mental illness. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 96(1), 217-265. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. The Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. (2009). What is Psychiatric Disability and Mental Illness? Retrieved from

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that the criminal justice system is failing those who would benefit more from psychiatric rehabilitation by placing them in correctional facilities or prisons.
  • Explains the complexity of defining a mental disorder in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.
  • Explains that a 2006 bureau of justice statistics report found that over half of the inmates in both prisons and jails had mental health problems.
  • Explains that james and glaze (2006) separated their results by gender. they found that 55 percent of males in state prisons displayed characteristics of mental illness, 43.6 percent in federal prisons, and 62.8 percent
  • Explains that in state, federal, and local prisons, hispanic inmates experienced consistently lower rates of symptoms of mental illness compared to blacks.
  • Explains that inmates, ages 24 and younger, were at the highest risk of having a mental illness consistently in all levels of institutions.
  • Cites litschge & vaughn's findings that incarceration of mentally ill people increased in the 1970s. over-crowding in hospitals and housing regulations led to homelessness.
  • Explains that the federal government took responsibility of caring for the mentally ill from the mid 1940’s until the 1980 presidential election of regan.
  • Analyzes how james and glaze (2006) found that inmates with mental health problems were twice as likely to have been homeless in the year preceding their arrest than those without mental problems.
  • Analyzes amanda pustilnik's findings that the criminal justice system functions as the united states' default asylum system.
  • Explains that many oppressed groups are affected by the unnecessary and excessive incarceration of the mentally ill. women, low socioeconomic status, and homelessness increase the likelihood of arrest due to a mental illness.
  • Explains that social justice is the second ethical principle found in the national association of social workers code of ethics (nasw).
  • Explains the american psychiatric association's diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.
  • Explains the clinical specificity hypothesis, which states that psycho-pathological profiles determine different types of psychosocial functioning and lead to particular interactions with the social environment, especially with health care services use.
  • Cites bloom, j., côté, and lesage, a. clinical and sociodemographic profiles of male inmates with severe mental illness.
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