Prisoners and The Development of Severe Mental Illness

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The vast majority of prisoners who suffer from severe mental illness are not receiving the proper mental health treatment necessary. The lack of attention allocated to the sanity of prisoners with mental illness is a haunting reality given that these people eventually return to the free world following their time in prison. Due to the punitive tendencies of the prison system, prison will likely only exacerbate people's preexisting mental illnesses, making them susceptible to recidivism, or further engaging in criminal behavior. This paper will examine the links between the prison system’s mentality to punish rather than rehabilitate its prisoners and therefore the lack of mental health care or rehabilitation the prisons provide for inmates with severe mental illness. This paper then considers the ways in which a merging of agendas between the prison system and the mental health institution could result in prisoners with mental illness receiving the care they need to return to society in better mental health than when they entered. A survey of prison guards inside 13 Florida jails made visible the punitive attitudes correctional officers hold regarding inmates in general, with or without a mental illness. Because the officers believed them to be dangerous, they tended to distance themselves from these prisoners. When in contact with the inmates, they believed it was their duty to focus on punishing them rather than engaging in rehabilitative efforts (Cook & Lane, 2013). The prison guards’ narrow-mindedness regarding the scope of their prison duties reflects the prison system’s negligence toward rehabilitating its prisoners so that they return to the free world as more productive members of society. This negligence is shown to ... ... middle of paper ... ...riorates” them and sends them back to society psychologically traumatized and incompetent. Prisons are consistently shown to undertreat their mentally ill prisoners and give them the mental resources they need for proper rehabilitation. The field of psychology needs to extend its rehabilitative nature into the prison system to ensure that prisoners suffering from serious mental illness are being diverted into mental institutions. Otherwise, these prisoners are susceptible to harsh, punitive environment of prison that will only exacerbate their psychopathological symptoms. An effective precaution to greatly reduce recidivism rates among mentally ill people upon entering the free world would be to extend medical and rehabilitative services into the communities to which they return. This method has been proven to effectively diminish the likelihood of recidivism.
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