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Mentally Ill People: Prison or Hospitilization ?

Updated on December 8, 2012
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As I watched the video, I learned a lot about mentally ill residents and how more and more of them are now staying in prisons instead of mental hospitals or institutions where they belong. I learned about a few of the prisoners that stay in these prisons and how they feel about staying there. Jacobe Lewis, was a psychopath, who believed “after years and years of treatment that staying at prison helped him and that his hallucinations stopped after a while.” Whereas, Carl McEachrone says “that they shouldn’t be in prison and how communication and treatment alone does not work.” In my opinion, Jacobe Lewis and Carl McEachrone opinions are both right. I feel that they are both right because I feel that depending on the individual someone can be helped by staying behind bars and receiving counseling and interacting with others with mental illnesses. On the other hand I also feel that Carl McEachrone is right because I believe that the technique that they are trying with these individuals doesn’t necessarily work for everybody and that it could backfire and make the situation worse. Likewise, the question stand should be in prison and if so why should they be in prison.


After thoroughly watching the video and listening to the prisoners and the staff’s point of view on why the mentally ill residents are there I feel that overall that mentally ill people should not be in prison. I feel this way because I feel that non mentally ill people automatically feel threatened by these individuals and feel that them being in prison is okay, as long as they aren’t harmed. I feel that the majority of the population look at mentally ill people as if they are crazy, volatile, and could misbehave or harm someone at any point of time. In the video, Wilkinson says “how jailing these individuals instead of sending them to hospitals was wrong and that we were no longer treating them like human beings.” I feel that the majority of peoples of opinions of mentally ill people come from books such as Mice and Men or movies as I Am Sam. In the book Mice and Men, Lenny was portrayed as a mentally challenged individual who was too dumb enough to take care of himself, eventually killing someone, and as a result shot by his own friend. On the other hand, Sean Penn was portrayed as a helpless sometimes moody but caring mentally challenged person who only wanted to take care of his daughter despite his mental capacity. I feel that the environment plays a huge role in how we judge mentally challenged people. Also, I feel that not everyone judges mentally ill people in the same way. I feel that some people judge mentally ill people not on the actions or the crimes they commit but on how they speak and their overall personality. I don’t necessarily think that everyone thinks mentally ill people are violate I just think that a majority of citizens do. I think this way because there are now 500,000 mentally ill people in prisons instead of in mental hospitals, far more than the 50,000 that were in there around thirty years ago. I feel that this statistic shows that we are slowly starting to no longer care about these individuals, treating them as if they were less than human, no longer caring whether they lived or died, or received the necessary treatment in order for them to get better. I wish the views of society would change so that these people are not behind bars and would get the chance to feel as if they have a little more freedom.


In addition to, I feel that they type of crime should matter on whether or not they are hospitalized or imprisoned. I feel this way because I think that individuals who commit a small crime may or may not commit a bigger crime. I feel that each of these individuals should be given the benefit of the doubt and shouldn’t be automatically assumed as being aggressive and prone to commit a bigger crime because of their mental incapability’s. I think that the majority of these individuals should be hospitalized. The only way I should feel if someone should be imprisoned is if they killed someone or greatly injures someone or injuring themselves greatly. I feel that these individuals need guidance, therapy, activities, and a little bit more freedom instead of automatically going to jail because of a small crime that they have committed. According to Bridget Benetis, she feels that keeping these individuals locked away isn’t going to help them. I agree with her and feel that putting these individuals in jail is wrong. The only thing I like about the prison is how the staff talks to the prisoners on how they feel about staying there. The response from one prisoner was that he felt that was suffering and that he was locked away. I feel that his statement along with a couple of others goes to show that these people want a little bit more freedom and would not like to be treated as if they were animals unable to do anything for themselves, even anything small that they could possibly handle.


Similarly, after watching the end of the video, my opinion on how these mentally ill prisoners are being treated is that they are being treated unfair. I noticed that if an individual doesn’t comply with what the staff is saying that brutal force is used by 5 or 6 officers and that these individuals are later being forced to take meds. I think forcing these individuals to do something they don’t want to do in a way go against our citizen rights. For example, in a hospital, if an individual doesn’t want chemo therapy for the cancer that they have, then they aren’t forced to be given chemo therapy, they are just strongly advised to receive the chemo in order to help the cancer go away. So, I feel that when we force these prisoners to take these medications that it is wrong and that they should have a say so in whether or not if they want to take them. I think that the medications aren’t going to work 100 percent in every individual in might help decrease minor systems but it isn’t necessarily going to lead these prisoners to being 100 percent well again. These individuals are going to have to constantly receive treatment their whole lives even though the side effects of taking these medications might cause their behavior to become worse than what it was before. The staff overall goal is to control the prisoners eating, give them rehab, and to help stabilize each individual. Their goal is a good goal to maintain but the way they go about maintaining this goal is wrong


In conclusion, I feel that mentally ill people shouldn’t be in prisons. I feel that mentally ill people should be in hospitals receiving therapy, counseling, voluntary treatment, and freedom to eat and involve themselves in activities as they please. The type of crime does matter if they should go to jail or a hospital depending on if they have greatly injured someone, killed someone, or injured themselves. The treatment that these individuals receive from the prison is wrong and should be changed immediately.


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    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 2 years ago

      @Elearn4life thanks for commenting and giving me your feedback regarding my hub.

    • Elearn4Life profile image

      Darlene Matthews 2 years ago

      Many people with mental illnesses are not dangerous but can have strange body languages that scare others that aren't understanding or offended by this disorder; when actually this may be warning signs that they need their meds.

      We certainly need more compassion and answers to dealing with a part of out society that depends on us for help. Thanks for this thought provoking hub torrilynn.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 3 years ago

      @CyberShelley thanks for commenting and I'm glad you enjoyed my article overall.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      Torrilynn you have shone a light on a very difficult subject and it appears that too often ethics and morals don't apply when treating these people. So sad, they are an overlooked section of society that doesn't vote - therefore there's no power. How ugly are we to allow that to happen? Thank you for sharing - you are going to be one tremendous journalist.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 3 years ago

      @MelCarriere thank you for agreeing with me. Yes, I am young and no I no nothing about Ronald Reagan shutting down mental hospitals. Thank you for the fact and your comment. It is much appreciated.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Very interesting perspective. You appear to be very young, so you might not remember when Ronald Reagan closed down a lot of the mental hospitals in the 80s, which resulted in a huge homeless problem and probably the prison overcrowding problem. The people need treatment, which they will not get in prison. Great hub!

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 3 years ago

      @tamarawilhite I completely agree with you as well there are millions of homeless people but our society doesn't want to help or can't afford to help.

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      Tamara Wilhite 4 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      We should undo the damage of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and reopen mental hospitals. We have a fraction of the beds we had in the 1950s and a hundred million more people.

      Most of our "homeless' problem is due to the hundreds of thousands of mentally ill who cannot function in society, and thus end up on the streets. Many more are so addicted that they cannot function; and they would be well served by being housed in an institution until sober or clean.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @Ghost32 i really do appreciate your insight and more background knowledge to the situation. The facts that you have shared with me are helping me to change my opinion altogether to say that the cruelty of mental people is harsh and wrong, not depending on where they reside. Thank you for your outlook.

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      Ghost32 4 years ago

      One thing to consider is that some state mental hospitals are WORSE than some prisons.

      As a senior psychology major at Montana State University in early 1970, I toured (with others of my class) both the mental hospital at Warm Springs and the facility for the developmentally disabled at Boulder. Neither was a joy to behold. They were at that time still doing shock treatment therapy at Warm Springs, and I witnessed a resident being forcibly dragged down the hall to a shock treatment session by two burly guards, screaming. The doctors were entirely foreign born and not overly proficient in English, giving the clear impression that they'd have had trouble getting hired elsewhere.

      At Boulder, it was even worse. I managed to slip aside and get in a few private words with the 28 year old psychologist who gave us the guided tour. Between just me, him, and the gatepost, he let me in on the fact that Robin Hall had only been cleaned up in 1964. Prior to that time, severely retarded residents had been literally chained to the walls, urinating and defecating where they lay. Additionally, he himself, as a senior staff member responsible for fully half of the entire program at Boulder, had only a Bachelor's Degree--and the person responsible for the other half had quit recently, so in reality he was in charge of the whole thing. We clicked together very well, and he asked me if I'd be interested in coming to work there after my graduation, which was coming up in a few months. I had to tell him no, admitting that while it would be a noble thing to do, I didn't believe I had quite enough nobility in me. Also, the pay was next to nonexistent, especially considering the heavy load of responsibility involved.

      By contrast, we have a close friend, age 33, who's been in prison in Georgia since she was 16. She's not overly mental, but is on Paxil (or some such--it might have changed). A few months ago, she sued the prison for messing up her right shoulder in a botched surgery in 2008 and then denying they'd even operated on her. Her lawsuit did the trick, she was referred to an outside surgeon, and he couldn't believe the mess they'd made of her shoulder. Took him hours to repair all the weird damage he found when he did the cutting...AND he found a spot that turned out to be cancer. Then, after the lab report came back with the diagnosis, she had a second operation to remove the spot, plus chemo (and maybe radiation, though I'm not sure about that).

      The surgical skill and after care were (and still are) exemplary. She's doing well, and the level of medical care she got is one we could only wish for out here in the real world.

      So, all I'm saying is, I'd be cautious about thinking that state mental hospitals for the mentally ill would be an improvement over the current imprisonment situation. For some it might, but for many, it might not be.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @CarlySullens thanks for your feedback on this unfortunate situation that is happening in America.

    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      I work with mentally ill adults. It is sad to me how this country does not offer the best care it can by providing more resources for people with mental illness.

      There are some clients who do get destructive, combative and abusive. They hurt others. I believe because of this they do need to go to jail when they break the law. I work at a residential treatment center, however, when I clients break the law, we call the police. They hurt other clients and staff.

      When a person is not safe to be around because he is psychotic or a social path he still needs to boundary away from others. The hope is jail will have unique and separate interventions for the individuals who are there. That is where we mess up. We do not intervene wisely when people are incarcerated.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @Pavlo thanks for enjoying my hub and i can see how you see it from that perspective. They are still confined in a building but at least in a clinical setting they don't have to be behind bars locked in one spot all of the time. I feel that if they were in a clinical setting that only the most violent patients would be locked up while the rest would be constantly monitored. We must not forget that some of them know that they are in prisons and don't like that feeling of being there but not having the decision to voice that; its almost as if there feelings or opinions don't count even though they are still human beings. Its not fair at all.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I think clinics for mentally ill people are almost the same as prisons. Patients are as limited in their ability to move around as prisoners. The only big difference that most of patients do not care about the plave they are while prisoners would do anything to be free. Great hub!

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @NatAmaral thanks and yeah i feel that it is wrong same as you but I feel also that if more people put more effort into actually stop this from happening or at least to get the govt to change their living conditions then changes would be made accordingly but until that day these people will remain in prisons; treated as if they are convicted criminals.

    • Nat Amaral profile image

      Nat Amaral 4 years ago from BC Canada

      So very true. It's so cruel that the legal system (what a joke to call it that) would treat the mentally ill as criminals. They don't know any better and should be treated in a mental hospital--especially since many of them don't know the difference between right or wrong. You clearly did your homework on this. Well done.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      L.L. Woodard, thanks for your feedback, i feel as a society, we don't know what to think of mentally ill people hence meaning mentally ill people will continue being put away in prisons instead of a well established facility. If the public were to make a stand about their situation then maybe something would be done due to the government wanting to avoid another situation such as wall street until that day comes i feel nothing will be done and that they will continue putting mentally ill people in prisons, slowly but surely becoming the norm of our society.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Thanks for sharing your opinions on the incarceration of mentally ill individuals. You've started a conversation about a topic most people would rather avoid.

      As a society and in healthcare, there is insufficient understanding of mental health issues. Medical science still has a long way to go in this area. In the meantime, due to overall fear of what we don't understand, as a society we lock people away, IMHO.

      As a nurse, I worked with many people who were released from long-term state mental health facilities in the 1980s, when the push came to close down such facilities. There were no bars in such places, but many people spent their entire adult lives there and were no less mentally ill than when they were originally admitted.

      Great hub; voted up and Shared.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @DDE thanks for the feedback that you have given me. I feel that altogether that this subject is a touchy one but i feel as a society that no one cares about these individuals otherwise they wouldn't be in prison. It hurts me a lot to know that people are living like caged animals no matter what mental disability they have.

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      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      It is a difficult decision if they are hospitalized there are problems there as well, so accommodation and care can be a problem in both places, and the cos toff-course is another issue however, you have helpful ways mentioned .

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @aviannovice i thank you for your feedback and i agree as well that until the government decides to pay for it that things will not change right away

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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These are great ideas, but until we get more people in the mental health field, and the states willing to pay fr it, it won't happen. Also remember the days when people were released and they committed crimes. Many times, mentally ill people will tell staffers exactly what they want to hear, as well as the general prison population. Everyone has the right to a good quality of life, but it will not happen in prison, where people tend to goad each other.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @Dolores Monet yeah i agree i feel that it doesn't save money they should be in mental institutions not in prison where they are being treated bad

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I agree with blondey up above. How can the powers that be think they are saving money by putting people in prison. And it's not just the mentally ill but the intellectually challenged and developmentally disabled as well. But these days, when many look so harshly down on the homeless, addicted, and mentally ill, I can't see how anything will change. It's sad and says a lot about us a a society.

    • blondey profile image

      Rosemary Amrhein 4 years ago from Boston, MA

      Dr Billy Kidd,

      but isn't it more expensive to pay for their "room and board " at prisons?

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      robie2 speaks of the shutting of mental institutions by the Reagan Administration, and that being the cause of homelessness. The issue went further.

      A quarter of a million people were summarily cut off SSI (social security income for the disabled who did not meet the work requirement for SSD). They lost their apartments or the ability to pay for their room at a group home. Psychologists could not find jobs as the whole industry took a hit.

      This is why folks have to be leary of "privitization" or "block grants to state" for medical care for the mentally ill. People end up in prison because they commit crimes or they become homeless. The states and communities have not had the resources to keep up with the care of these folks for long term treatment.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @blondey thank you :) and i believe that research is important to make sure your informing others with the correct information. I will definitely check out the books that you have suggested for me. :)

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @Kathleen Kerswig thank you for your comment and i agree with you as well and believe that these individuals should not be in prison.

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      Kathleen Kerswig 4 years ago

      Good job with this hub Torrilynn. In my experience, I've come to realize that each case needs to be evaluated individually. What works for one person may not work for ten other people. Ultimately, if someone is suffering from mental illness, then prison is probably not going to help them at all. There is no simple solution to this issue. I'm learning this now that I'm working in the substance abuse field. There are many who suffer from co-occurring disorders (mental and substance abuse). We need to find a way to help those who have been suffering for so long. Thank you for posting this to share with others.

    • blondey profile image

      Rosemary Amrhein 4 years ago from Boston, MA

      It's great you're doing the research on these topics, torrilynn. There's always room for improvement in this world and it starts with us:))

      Dr. Peter Breggin is a famous psychiatrist who is known for not liking medication (psychiatric) because of the many side effects etc. He has a rehab I believe where he helps people get off them (slowly) very slowly and I hear only 8% of his patients really need it according to him.

      His books on TOXIC PSYCHIATRY sorry caps, and others like "Your Drug may be your problem" are very inspiring.

      I have been off Lithium.for a year. I was on it for 20yrs :( It did a hell of a lot of damage to my teeth (dry mouth) and many other things not to mention I was very irrituable all the time. I am now feeling so much better it's incredible.

      Keep up your good work and read schoolgirlforreal, she has many good hubs on mental health!

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      @robie2 thank you for your comment and adding a little but more history behind mentally ill people being in prisons.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      Thank you for reading and enjoying my hub. Merry Christmas to you as well.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      Thank you. i agree as well these people shouldn't be thrown in prison unwillingly because of their illness and human beings not understanding or taking the time to understand what is wrong and how to help instead of accidentally harming these people and not treating them as if they aren't people at all.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      Thank you and yes they should be evaluated for the right treatment.

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      Thank you and yes I believe young children should not be given such medicine.

    • blondey profile image

      Rosemary Amrhein 4 years ago from Boston, MA

      This is a very worthy subject and I agree w your other hub about not giving children medicine like Ritalin. it shows how cruel humans can be and lazy to spend time. i have met many adult patients who are most of the time lovable and the program used works very well. one such place is the Edinburgh in Waltham, ma.

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      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      A very good presentation. I agree with teaches 12345. They need to be evaluated by a neuropsychiatrist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I agree, mentally ill patients do not belong in prisons. That would be torture and inhuman treatment. They have not committed crimes, they need help to understand how to act and think well in society, prison does not help with this.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this is a great hub.. I agree the mentally ill do need hospitals.. thank you for writing such an insightful hub and informative..

      Merry Christmas

      Debbie

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      Roberta Kyle 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

      In the 1980s the Reagan Administration shut down all the government run mental institutions in what was supposed to have been step one of a sweeping change in American mental health care-- unfortunately steps two and three( community based mental health services and the integration of the mentally ill into the larger community ) never happened.

      It was after the closing of the institutions that crazy homeless people began to appear on the streets for the first time in living memory, and many of them ended up in jail. Our track record on mental health care reform in this country is pretty dismal, though there are many wonderful agencies and excellent professionals working in the field. Thanks for shining a light in a dark corner

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      true those individuals are very dangerous. i guess it just hard for me to compartmentalize why some people are the way they are and the fact that they simply can't or won't change for the better despite medication and constant therapy. the other factors that affect them greatly are genetics, environment, and other such things.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Torrilynn. Some of the inmates and patients with chronic mental illnesses, and who have committed crimes, are very dangerous. They have learned most all the tricks of street fighting from being in fights while incarcirated and while on the street. Some have learned to attack immdediately when anyone around them shows a vulnerability.

      In a way its like a caged animal that has been beaten and who expects to be beaten again. And that's one of the most inhumane part of this--the violent treatment inmates and patients with mental illnesses receive. As a consequence, psyche aids at mental hospitals have a very high injury rate.

      Medications often change patients' behavior, taking them out of fighting mode. But, overmedication turns them into zoombies, who shuffle along, oblivious to everything (at one point it was called the Haldol Shuffle).

    • torrilynn profile image
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      torrilynn 4 years ago

      I agree with Dr. Billy and feel that these individuals should not be forced to live in prisons but there is no place to go since all of the mental institutions are being torn down. However, I do find it hard to understand why these individuals should be forced to be given medication but then again I have not worked with violent individuals.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      The local State run mental institution turned into a prison. Most of the patients were released. But many of them had lived there all their lives and were challenged by simple tasks like walking across the street.

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      ahorseback 4 years ago

      I agree , and of course there are those who need constant watching , there are those who would even innocently kill or injure another ! They belong in prison of course . We as a society have failed to achieve a level of perfection in treating many many mental disorders though . SOO many inpatients ....are out on the streets.! Great hub for discussion , what do we do ?......Ed

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      Sheila 4 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      I agree with Dr. Billy - The lack of state run Mental Health facilities is also a leading cause of much of the homelessness in this country. I worked for a year in the State Mental Hospital in my area - (a year was enough) - there were patients and staff accosted on a daily basis mentally ill crimianals. They must be locked up, medicated if indicated, and supervised by mental health professionals if they have committed crimes, especially assaultive/homocidal type of crimes.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      You're right. As a rule, someone with a severe mental health problem should be in the forensic ward of a state mental hospital, not in a jail. There are execptions, however. I've been in forensic facilities and I'm aware of psyche aids beating people into submission--and thinking it's fun. So it's no different than some of the more brutal prisons.

      The other issue that has troubled me for 25 years is the shutting down of state run mental health institutions. Today there is no place to send most mentally ill people who have committed crimes except to prison. In fact, there is no place in many states to send someone who is a danger to themselves and has not committed a crime. And so, private prisons flourish (and you can invest in the stock in some of them).

      There are innovative programs, however, that are modeled after drug courts. As long as the prisoner goes to treatment and appears before the judge once a month, he or she is allowed to live in the community. Sure, some of these folks are incorrigible, and will commit a crime again, but many can learn to manage their mental illnesses.

      Also (and this may be hard to understand) I believe when two psychiatrists say a prisoner should take medication to protect oneself or others, I think it should be done. I say this because I've been inside a maximum security unit for mentally ill criminals at a state prison and at a state hospital. Some folks in these units will just flat out try to kill you if you open the cell door. Sometimes medications make such a person less aggressive. So their "quality of life" becomes a little better.

      Hope these ideas make sense.