Mentally Ill In Prison Essay

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The enormous growth in the national prison population has intensified the problems presented by the needs of mentally ill inmates. A report released by Human Rights Watch late last year—“Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness”—examines in depth the situation of the adult mentally ill in state and federal prisons. The report is long and well-researched, blending material from legal documents, court records, academic studies, site visits, interviews and letters. Originally established in the 1970s to monitor compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords, Human Rights Watch has developed into a more broadly focused international observer of government policies and practices affecting human rights…show more content…
It offers recommendations for change, but its main value possibly lies in the depth and thoroughness of its research, which provides detached examination of the range of problems presented by mentally ill prisoners. The report provides a detailed look at the situation behind the numbers that have been compiled in numerous other reports. Prisoners have rates of mental illness two to four times higher than those occurring in the general population, and according to this report, there are three times more mentally ill people in U.S. prisons than in mental health hospitals. Between two and three hundred thousand people incarcerated in federal and state prisons suffer from severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. On any given day, about 70,000 are psychotic. These numbers represent a severe crisis for prison systems throughout the country. The report discusses two main reasons why the numbers have risen to a crisis level. First, as a result of the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s, many mental health hospitals were closed, but community mental health systems which were envisioned as taking the place of hospitals did not develop sufficiently. Many mentally ill—particularly the poor—are now without access to help. Over the same time, politically-generated “tough on crime” attitudes throughout the country have given rise to criminal codes under which more people are being incarcerated
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