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Mental Health Issues in the UK Criminal Justice System

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3786 words Published: 3rd Jul 2018

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Mental Health illness is a problem that the criminal justice system faces daily. “In 1992, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group released a report that described alarmingly high numbers of people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental illnesses incarcerated in jails across the country” (Erickson & Erickson, 2008, p. 4). Mental health illness can contribute to jail and prison overcrowding, high crime rates, drug addiction, and many other problems.

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The team decided to examine mental health issues as it relates to the criminal justice system and specifically how mental health can play a role in the crime. Different factors can become a problem with mental health illness and the criminal justice system. Jail and prison officials should be train to identify mental health crisis. “Mental health professionals including psychiatrists should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to evaluate potential crises and prescribe emergency medications in detention facilities” (Compton & Kotwicki, 2007, p. 49). Even though, is true the problem starts with the crime and the sentence. Many problems and questions arise when a person who possesses a mental illness commits offense.

There are many obstacles that need to be overcome before convicting someone of a crime. First a crime has to report. From there, the crime and the individual as well as witnesses need to be interview or interrogate. Information gathered during this process must be valid in order for the Prosecutor eventually hands down a charge. However, sometimes in certain circumstances, officers, and detectives may press charges against an individual and it the Prosecutor to either file charges under that individual. A prosecutor may agree with the charges that the Detectives chose, and in that case, the charges can be amended to a greater or lesser charge. At this point, it is particularly necessary that the defendant seek legal advice. A court date will determine. This typically called a hearing, and at this point, the defendant can make a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. From there, a trial will set in which the Prosecutor and Defense attorney will discuss their case before a jury. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury will decide guilt or innocence. According to Compton and Kotwicki (2007), “Just like cases in which a mental illness is not a factor charges against a defendant with a mental illness may be dropped, the defendant can plead guilty, or the defendant can be found guilty or not guilty by trial” (p. 490). A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is not a conviction, and it does not require a basis for criminal sentencing and punishment. Not that the charge should go away, but when the judge finds someone not guilty because of reason for insanity considered an acquittal. What the judge does is making that individual do his or her time in either a rehab facility or in a mental hospital.

Depending, on the defendant’s behavior one could be eventually discharge with charges thrown out. If the “defendants’ behavior becomes worse, charges will not get dropped, and one will sentence to prison after seeing the judge if the judge thinks he, or she would be competent to do his or her time in prison to finish the sentence for the crime her or she once committed” (Compton and Kotwicki, 2007, p. 13). However, for people with” mental illness, a judge may exercise discretion in pursuing alternatives to conviction and sentencing” (Compton and Kotwicki, 2007, p. 13).

Convictions could overturn for mental health issues depending on what issue they have. Many police officers or detective does not recognize the signs of a mental disease of an individual questioned or suspected of a crime. Reported to the New York Times, today many individuals can provide documentation with details giving them the right hand to get their conviction overturned. When a person is sitting in an interrogation room question for a crime, but has a mental illness that the police force cannot accept; also does not have the capabilities to ask for a lawyer, the judge will much abundantly so blame the police force for not seeing the signs of mental illness. When the defense team represents their client, it appear in court, which if the right protocol not understand; therefore the facts they appear before the court would have no cause. Many individuals make false confessions because of the illness they have which will allow the convictions to get overturned.

People with mental illness “cannot always tell their thoughts clearly or understand what others are saying to them” (Persons With Mental Illness Who Are Homeless Or Missing: A Guide For Families, p. 1). In “confusion, some will retreat while others have grandiose ideas and cannot make sound judgments” (Persons With Mental Illness Who Are Homeless Or Missing: A Guide For Families, p. 1). Sometimes they “leave home or other fixed surroundings, and they become homeless or missing” (Persons With Mental Illness Who Are Homeless Or Missing: A Guide For Families, 2012, p. 1). They can go for “days, weeks, months or years” (Guide To Help Locate Missing Homeless & Mentally Ill, 2012, p. 1). Often they “leave behind distraught families, hoping to realize their loved ones home or to another safe place” (Guide To Help Locate Missing Homeless & Mentally Ill, 2012, p. 1). Different examples of mental illnesses are anxiety, which is a sense of fear, nervousness, and worry about something that may arise in the future. “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that is a, mental illness characterized by an impaired ability to regulate activity level (hyperactivity) attend to tasks (inattention)” (Information About Mental Illness And The Brain, 2012, p. 2). Inhibit behavior (impulsivity), schizophrenia, which is a “serious, severe, and disabling brain disease” (Mental Illness Glossary, 2012, p. 2).

People with “schizophrenia often suffer terrifying symptoms, such as hearing internal voices or believing that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them” (Mental Illness Glossary, 2012, p. 2). These “symptoms may cause them anxious and withdrawn” (Information About Mental Illness And The Brain, 2012, p. 1). Their “speech and behavior so disorganized that they may be confusing or frightening to others” (Information About Mental Illness And The Brain, 2012, p. 1). These are just some examples of health issues that go unrecognized, so when a crime committed many police officers not trained to understand the symptoms and behaviors that go along with the mental illness.

Many individuals across the nation suffer from chronic mental illness that can affect several factors of one’s life. It can take an adverse impact to employment, personal relationships, and often leads to substance abuse and involvement of criminal activity. The team cannot control aspects of a mental illness we can determine the problems as well, as the “issues surrounding the mentally ill individuals within the criminal justice system” (Mentally Ill Offenders And County Jails; Survey Results And Policy Issues Criminal Justice, 2000, p. 15). There are many types of mentally ill offenders, some that commit violent crimes and others that commit minor offenses but from what even comparison that a person uses needs to understand that treatment is the place.

Supporting resources revealed similar views by stating, “Inadequate treatment and services leaves people unprotected from the effectiveness of their illness, and we wait and watch until they do something, often a non-violent misdemeanor, to put them in trouble with the law” (Department of Health and Human Services, 2000, p. 1). For the offenders that commit minor offenses, law-enforcement officers usually can identify them from observations. At this point, a police officer has the potential to Baker Act the criminal. Possessing an Offender Baker Acted can remember as a way involuntary intend to obtain mental health treatment, For example, a person who is presenting a threat to him or herself or other that may be cannot access the treatment needed.

If the officer, decides to make an arrest instead the person brought to jail and eventually through a screening process. The assessment will determine the condition or severity of his or her mental status. If the level is not uncommon, the offender place within the general population. If it verified that he or she is a risk, the person is places on the psychiatric status for further evaluations. Ultimately the mentally ill inmate will undergo treatment from physicians and case workers and spend eight times longer confine. An average prisoner to obtain the necessary treatment wants to become a productive member in society.

The justice system has come a long distance by supporting programs, such as the Criminal Mental Health Project. This project was creating to discover better ways of handling mentally ill individuals. As they come in contact, the criminal justice system as well as treatment requires. There are two facilitate components to the development programs that include pre-arrest and the post arrest diversion program. The pre-arrest deviation is aim to identify and prevent any mentally ill person from entering the criminal justice system.

According to resources, “For these diversion options to be successful, though, resources must observe release conditions and provides treatment. Otherwise, diversion will just contribute to the deinstitutionalization/ criminalization revolving door” (Center of Problem-Oriented Policing, 2006). Upon entry into treatment programs often offenders placed within community-based treatment facilities where they receive appropriate care. While undergoing treatment, they will continue to be monitor by a court ordered case worker.

There are many studies that have tried to tackle the common questions of, how the justice system should play a key role when coming in contact with the mentally ill and what is the appropriate action that should supplied to each obligation of an offender who is mentally ill. The criminal justice system faced with a dilemma when a mentally ill person enters the justice system. The difficult task becomes weighing the options of punishment or providing treatment. This similar dilemma seen in the case of Andrea Yates, a 36 year-old native of Texas that drowned her five children. Many horrified by this crime in hopes she would be discipline and others had mixed emotions. It came out during the hearing that she was mentally ill suffering from postpartum psychosis but was this merely a defense tactic.

Further researcher revealed that, “A Justice Department investigation from 1999 that estimates the number of mentally ill prisoners to be about 16% of the total prison population. Analysts say fair treatment of the mental ill often overshadowed by opposition to the use of the insanity defense, which some claim abused a way to get away with crimes. According to reports, however, the insanity defense used in less than 1% of all criminal trials. Experts agree it succeeds in only about one-quarter of those cases” (The Mentally Ill in the Legal System, 2009, p. 10).

The problem still moves forward as the justice system debates on how to handle such circumstance. The issue becomes the responsibility as this is what country has distilled in the justice system. For this purpose, it is necessary to understand the roles and responsibilities that the justice system has in continuing further research on methods. To improve treatment of the mentally ill offenders as well as treatment for these offenders mentally.

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In a study taken by Psych Central, the discoveries suggest “Two thirds of prisoners nationwide with a mental illness were off medication at the time of their arrest, according to a new study by Harvard researchers that suggest under treatment of mental illness contributes to crimes and imprisonment” (Mental Health News from North Carolina Mental Hope, n.d., P 5.). Although the discoveries may reflect differences, the key factor is that mental health can and does contribute to crime. Many of the soldiers who serve in the Army and do respond will suffer from post-traumatic stress. Which lead, to a severe mental unbalance that ultimately results in crime. Very similar to that of a person who “born with severe mental problems and lacks the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, many of these individuals commit a crime because of the constant replay of visions of acts committed while serving but under the direct control” (Doctor Says Palin In Excellent Health – CBS News, 2011, P. 1). Unfortunately, whether a person born with mental issues, or develops psychological issues as a result of an event in life can be more likely to possess a strong fear of crime.

Institutes for mental health care, review scientific research a critical activity. A good way to stimulate research is by simplifying data collection through observation. In collecting data for the study of mental health issues, one effective way to collect data for this study would be through observation. Examination of subjects with mental illness would allow researchers to assess side effects of mental illness. For the study, of mental illness and crime consideration among other methods of data collection used to determine the effects of criminal activity in conjunction with crime. By observing, subjects who been diagnosed with mental illness along with surveying and evaluation of behavioral activities, a simple collection of information will assist in aiding researchers get answers to the questions of mental illness.

The number of mentally ill offenders incarcerated is gradually growing. There are approximately seven percent of mentally ill offenders in jail within the U.S population. The approach to the participant evaluation will be selecting individuals whom have had prior encounters with the criminal justice system such as individual that entered the justice system and have under gone treatment from mental health professional that appointed by the mental health courts and not released. The selection of individuals will also include mentally ill offenders currently establishing a position with in the criminal justice system. These include but not limited to offenders currently seeking treatment for their illness, offenders that are awaiting the hearing process from the courts, and detainees from law-enforcement officers that have implemented the Bakers Act that is necessary for accurate and successful treatment. This evaluation would be far from complete if the process did not include the experience and knowledge from the trained professional such as law-enforcement officers that often are the first contacts made, the mental health courts that make the determination of each unique case, and the mental health professionals that treat the offenders in order for them to have a chance to be a productive member in society. They attempt to conduct this evaluation will pay close attention to the needs of these individuals, such as setting, technique of the evaluation and how the groups be combined in order to obtain accurate data.

The evaluation will become much more simplified by combining the groups to obtain structure and order during the evaluation. The break down of the evaluation will be following an outline in which how the evaluation process conducted, this will ensure that all data collected and is significant to the study as well as the study groups. The groups be combined as the following, the prior mentally ill offenders findings be incorporated with the mentally ill offenders that currently detained in the criminal justice system, this can include first time offenders and offenders awaiting hearing. The next groups will consist of the offenders as a whole number and the experienced professional that have implemented their treatments and rehabilitation. The next stage in the evaluation is to secure an environment suitable for all participants. This will ensure comfort ability with the participants; it would also be an area with no distractions. As the interviews are conducting a series of individual’s questions, be generated for each individual. The qualitative data method that be implemented will make certain that other resources can be used to support the findings of the evaluation. Some excellent resources that can be collected in this procedure are medical evaluation records and details procedures that utilized as guidelines for necessary treatment for the offender.

When we talk about the procedures for mental illnesses, the doctors have to treat each illness case by case basis. A prime example is a defendant that is mentally retarded. The defendant charged with kidnapping and murder. The “mental retardation evidence consisted of expert testimony that the defendant had intellectual deficits (an IQ below 70), and also contained three variable manipulations: (1) testimony that the defendant lacked/did not lack a practical adaptive skill (the ability to care for himself); (2) testimony that the defendant lacked/did not lack a social adaptive skill (interpersonal abilities); and (3) the age of onset of the mental retardation as being from birth (before 18) or after age 18 due to a brain injury” (Margaret Reardon, 2007, p. 11). “Although by definition mental retardation cannot have an onset after age 18, many researchers’ points out the legal issue that identical intellectual deficits can develop regardless of age of onset” (Margaret Reardon, 2007, p. 12).

The jurors have to consider the mental illness of the person that set forth of the trial. Many defendants receive expert testimony that specifically stated that the crime was attributable to the defendant’s mental retardation. The ”nexus testimony stated that the defendant was unable to appreciate the criminal nature of their act and that he or she was vulnerable to following the direction of others due to their limited logical capacity” (Margaret Reardon, 2007, p. 12).

Participants then intended for to a page containing jury instructions where they recorded their verdict of whether the defendant is mentally retarded. “Variables manipulated in the instructions included (1) the party carrying the burden of proof, (2) the standard of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt/by a preponderance of the evidence), and for the mental retardation determination, (3) the definition of mental retardation used” (Margaret Reardon, 2007, p. 12).

Many individuals have to understand the different emotions and styles with dealing with an individual with mental illness. Self-aware is well aware of their moods. These people have some sophistication about their emotional lives. They are in excellent psychological health and tend to have a positive outlook on life. When they get into a bad mood, they do not ruminate or obsess about it, and are able to get out of it sooner. “Engulfed are people who feel swamped by their emotions and helpless to escape them, they are mercurial and not particularly much aware of their feelings, so they lost in them rather than having some perspective” (Batool, 2011, p. 1). They have no control over their emotional life. Accepting people are usually clear about what they are feeling, they accept their mood, but do not try to change them either in whole or severe mood. This “pattern found among depressed people who resigned to their despair” (Batool, 2011, p. 1)).

The difference between right and wrong is not easily explained. Mental health and illness within the walls of the correctional facilities throughout the United States are struggling with many obstacles. Many inmates claim insanity or a mental illness. However, we left to believe that they are simply using this “defense” as a way to ask for forgiveness for the crime they have committed. There are many inmates that medicated, but nothing seems to help their violent outbursts. On the other hand, there are many inmates that are in fact, responding to medications to help their condition. According to Wendy Fry, producer of KPBS.org, she states that the cost per year to house an inmate is approximately $50,000 per year but that when an inmate hits the age of 55, we should expect that amount to almost triple. The idea of figuring out a way to eliminate mental health and illness from the prison setting is not as easy as one may think. Actually, it is next to impossible. Medicaid set up to help those who are below the income in which they could afford health insurance. Medicaid pays for mental health appointments as well as the medication to control such illnesses. However, without the will of the individual or the parents of children to seek out the help needed, our prisons will continue to be overcrowded and unsteady.

There is one act that we can do. When an inmate comes into the realm of the correctional facility, we can do what we have been doing, we provide them with medical care, and this also includes mental health. From there it all depends on the individual if they are going to work the system, or let the system work for them. There is a saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink. This can be applied to the correctional facilities inmates. Some people are just career criminals, and with that being said, some inmates clearly need mental health. So before, we can go in depth on a budget to help this situation, we need to know how to tell the difference between mental illness and simply an excuse to break the law.

In conclusion, many problems stem from mental health illness when brought against the criminal justice system. Furthermore, many questions brought up about the sentencing and what punishing a person with a mental illness should obtain and what mark just for an individual with a mental illness. Certain laws are in place for people with a mental illness that commits offense. Some individuals who do have a mental illness but convicted and cut through the loop holes of the criminal justice system.


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