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Jails and prisons are treated as mental health facilities

Written by Moses & Rooth on February 28, 2014

When individuals are arrested and convicted of criminal wrongdoing, they are often sent to jail or prison. We have previously written about the fact that numerous studies confirm that lengthy imprisonment terms are far less likely to do taxpayers and individuals convicted of low-level, non-violent crimes as much good as alternatives are.

For example, individuals convicted of low-level and non-violent drug crimes are far less likely to reoffend if they are given adequate access to drug treatment and transition assistance programs. These alternatives also cost taxpayers far less than imprisonment does as well. But what is to be done about individuals sorely in need of mental health treatment? Why do many only seem to receive the services they need once they have committed crimes and have been imprisoned?

According to a study conducted by the Justice Department in 2006, over half of all U.S. inmates suffer from mental health problems. The rate of mental disorders among female inmates specifically is nearly 75 percent. Rather than responding to the mental illness that likely contributed to or directly caused their criminal behavior, the system simply locks these individuals up.

An experienced criminal attorney may be able to help mentally ill individuals accused of criminal wrongdoing get the help they need. However, the pattern of the system certainly suggests that most mentally ill individuals will simply be locked up instead of properly assessed, treated and aided in the ways they deserve. Because no matter what criminal wrongdoing an individual has committed, he or she retains the right to receive necessary medical care.

Source: New York Times, “Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail,” Nicholas Kristof, Feb. 8, 2014

Posted Under: Criminal Defense

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