Mental Illness – A Commentary on the Situation of the Mentally Ill Within the National Institute of Corrections

What Happens When the Mental Illness Collides With Mental Illness

Being locked behind bars is never easy. Being locked behind bars while lacking the mental capacity to comprehend all that has happened evokes a state of depression beyond measure.

In June of 2001, a 49 year old adult male spent three months in the Hillsborough, NC country jail. Eleven other prisoners shared with him the crowded confinements of a cell designed to house eight men. It was there that he made acquaintances with a mentally troubled, illegal Mexican immigrant. For two years, the Mexican man had remained locked within that tiny block of Hillsborough real estate. He was incapable of contacting relatives, unable to understand what requirements the U.S. government expected him to meet and uninformed as to when or how his period behind bars would come to an end.

The depth of this man’s pain is clearly expressed in the words of the prisoner who shared the story, “I have never, in my entire life, witnessed such a haunted expression on the face of a fellow human being.”

If you have a loved one or a friend caught up within the current legal system, expect strange behavior. When incarcerated, even people without prior mental disorders will go through stages of depression, paranoia, anger and irrational displays of blame and confusion.

Loved Ones, Mental Illness and Jail

In a joint report issued by the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), mentally ill people are three times more likely to end up incarcerated rather than hospitalized. Additional TAC figures suggest that:

  • Local jails book approximately two million individuals with complex mental illnesses every year.just in the images folder
  • Thirty percent of incarcerated females suffer some measure of mental turmoil, including complications such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
  • In most cases, the mentally ill offender is booked and incarcerated for minor, non-violent wrongdoings.
  • Among previously arrested mentally ill prisoners, the average rate of re-arrest runs nearly fifty percent. Rather than new offenses, the primary cause of return to prison is related to the offenders inability to comply with the written and verbal conditions of release as stated in parole or probation specifics.

Get on the Forefront of the Battle Against Wrongful Incarceration of the Mentally Ill

According to the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), some estimates suggest that mental illness may affect as many as two million incarcerated individuals. The problem often involves co-occurring substance abuse disorders.

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