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    Discuss the relationship between crime and mental illness, and describe the prevalence of mental illness in criminal populations. Is prison the most appropriate place to deal with people with mental illness?    



Subject Law and governance Pages 4 Style APA


The Relationship between Crime and Mental Illness

Crime refers to an omission or an action constituting an offense that is punishable by law. Mental illness refers to a wide range of brain conditions affecting thinking patterns, mood and behavior (Schug & Fradella, 2015). Most individuals with mental health issues rarely commit crime, but the ones who do infrequently receive the necessary help they require from the criminal justice system. The relationship between crime and mental health is considerably complex. Conceptualizing such a connection could possibly transform the manner in which criminal justice systems handle inmates and result into reduced recidivism rates. This paper seeks to discuss the relationship between crime and mental illness, describe the prevalence of mental illness in criminal populations and highlight whether or not prison is the most appropriate place to deal with people with mental illness.

A number of studies have attempted to break down all relative ties between mental illness and criminal behaviors. Mentally ill persons with severe diagnoses have a greater likelihood of engaging in violent actions than mentally stable individuals. However, this population is relatively small (Schug & Fradella, 2015). In most cases, mentally ill individuals who are not receiving appropriate treatment regimens pose adverse danger to society compared to non-ill individuals. Individuals who have had previous exposure to victimization, violence or substance abuse are more likely commit crime than others.

A good number of past studies put emphasis on the link between violent criminal actions like mass homicide and mental health. Whereas a direct causal link between violent actions and mental health rarely exists, the criminal justice system is known to house a disproportionate number of inmates with a range of mental issues because they rarely receive the good care that they require (Schug & Fradella, 2015). Compared to the non-mentally ill populace, the mentally ill individuals mostly end up in different correctional facilities at a much elevated rate. Individuals with untreated symptoms mostly tend to lash out, act in unpredictable manner and are spiral into addiction. This can possibly increase probability of incarceration.

According to the most recent study done by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJs), sixty four percent of local jail inmates, approximately fifty six percent of total state prisoners and forty five percent of federal prisoners, have symptoms of serious mental problems. This is an indictment of the entire state’s mental healthcare system. The most prevalent issues relate to bipolar disorder and depression. The numbers are actually stark when classified by gender: of the total mentally ill inmates, seventy three percent are female inmates.

Prison is not the most appropriate place to deal with people with mental illness because it neither provides the necessary needs for the mentally ill people to recover nor solutions to the issue (Torrey et al., 2014). Instead, it is important to consider venturing into supportive mental health programs with the primary goal of reducing crime. Basing on the most recent statistics, mentally ill people have been put in more in correctional facilities that in rehabilitation facilities and in hospitals. Within the prison systems, inmates are only provided with appropriate passable mental health care when they show cases of extreme illness or suffering (Torrey et al., 2014). If individuals affected by mental disorders are not accorded appropriate and adequate care before or after committing a crime, they may fall into the incarceration and release cycle.

Failure to fully support individuals who are mentally ill hurts every person whether inside or outside of the criminal justice system. Sick people without access to the required treatment should avoid incarceration. There is a great likelihood that all inmates who do not receive the necessary support to control their situation may get worse in prison setting and reoffend upon their release (Torrey et al., 2014). Establishing appropriate rehabilitative programs as well as health programs within their communities and even the criminal justice system is essential. The project must consider all factors to ensure the programs are not limited by factors of shortage of mental health professionals, inconsistent advocacy or challenges representing obstacles to reform.

In conclusion, appropriate rehabilitative treatment and professional care have the capacity to reduce the probability that a stabilized crime offender is capable of making related mistakes in future. Ultimately, conceptualizing the underlying link between mental health and crime is quite hard. An attorney could possibly serve as a powerful advocate assigned to the individuals who are mentally ill entirely during the criminal justice process. All legal professionals who understand the system are capable of fighting for the rights of mentally ill persons to fair mental health care. Under any criminal case, it is important to understand the underlying mental health issues to fully change the results of a sentence or a case.



Schug, R. A., & Fradella, H. F. (2015). Mental Illness and Crime. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage.

Torrey, E. F., Zdanowicz, M. T., Kennard, A. D., Lamb, H. R., Eslinger, D. F., Biasotti, M. C., & Fullet, D. A. (2014). The treatment of persons with mental illness in prisons and jails: A state survey. Treatment Advocacy Center.


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