Mental Health within the Criminal Justice System Essay

Mental Health within the Criminal Justice System Essay

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This essay intends to address the role that state agencies, both within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and more broadly the institutions of education, employment and health, play in supporting and implementing diversionary programs for offenders with mental health problems. Mental health is clearly one of the most critical issues facing the Australian and New South Wales (NSW) CJS with research indicating that offenders with mental health problems constitute the majority of those within the prison system. The current strategies for diversion will be critically evaluated in order to determine their effectiveness with regard to the delivery and production of justice, cultural sensitivity for Indigenous Australians will also be considered. The social construction of mental illness and the associated process of stigmatisation of this particular group will be explored in conjunction to explain why society still fails to prevent the mass entry of people with mental health issues into the traditional CJS.

Critical to understanding the extent of the problem is a clear definition of mentally ill, “a person suffering from mental illness and, owing to that illness, there are reasonable grounds for believing that care, treatment or control of the person is necessary for the person’s own protection from serious harm, or for the protection of others from serious harm” [Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)]. Noting that the statute specifies the ‘control’ of this group which adds to the notion that people with mental health problems are inherently more dangerous members of our society. Furthermore mental health problems within the prison system (inmate population) are estimated to be three to four times higher than in the general Australian popula...


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...‘Opportunities in public policy to support infant and early childhood mental health’, American Psychologist, vol. 66, no. 2, pp. 129-139.
New South Wales Police Force, 2011, Mental health intervention team news, brochure, NSW Police Force, New South Wales
Richardson, E. & McSherry, B., 2010, ‘Diversion down under – Programs for offenders with mental illnesses in Australia’, International Journal of Law Psychiatry, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 249-257.
Seltzer, T., 2005, ‘Mental health courts – A misguided attempt to address the criminal justice system’s unfair treatment of people with mental illnesses’, Psychology, Public Policy and Law, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 570-586.
Wolff, N. & Pogorzelski, W., 2005, ‘Measuring the effectiveness of mental health courts – Challenges and recommendations’, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 539-569.

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