Should the Mentally Ill Be In Jail?

Should the Mentally Ill Be In Jail?

I read a short Bio the other day about Dorothea Dix (1802-1887). In the 1800s, she was an advocate of the mentally ill and believed that they should not be housed with criminals in a jail, as she had observed during her work assignment there. Dorothea saw criminals as vicious people who would do heinous acts and thought that to institutionalize the mentally ill within those confines was outrageous according to her beliefs. However, through her advocacy, she was successful with the U.S. Congress to get asylums to house the mentally ill.

Can a mentally ill person commit a crime? Certainly. Should that person be put in jail or institutionalize elsewhere? I would say that it depends on the type of offense and the history of the patient. Criminals are people who have violated the law and are sentenced to prison. They can be people who have decent social behavior, in between, or others who are suffering from some type of mental disorder. The fact here is that they all may have some type of psychological issue but which ones will be warranted to be housed elsewhere? If they are not housed in jail, then an asylum, a hospital or special facility to receive proper treatment might be appropriate. A person who poses a danger to himself or herself and others would need to be restrained somehow.

Today, we still have the same issue in government. We find that individuals with mental illness can still be housed in jail. “According to the Department of Justice, nearly 1.3 million people with mental illness are incarcerated in state and federal jails and prisons – compared to only about 70,000 people being served in psychiatric hospitals.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/special/excerpt.html

However, research has proven that deinstitutionalization has been effective in many states, perhaps this didn’t include the hard-core criminals, but programs will have to be continued for effective transition of those who are mentally ill.

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