Friday, September 27, 2013

“The New Asylums:  Jails Swell with Mentally Ill”

Published September 27,  6:01 pm

What’s worse, a prisoner or an imprisoned prisoner?  The nation’s state and federal correctional facilities are not only increasing in inmate capacity, but are currently experiencing overwhelming  numbers of mentally ill inmates.  Several states have cut  budgets for mental hospitals eliminating necessary resources for disadvantaged citizens battling mental illness. It was stated in the article that National Alliance on Men

tal Illness estimated that the cost of prisoners with mental illness on the nation is $9 billion.  Untreated individuals having engaged in illegal activities (professionals believe as a result of their mental condition) are placed in jail,  undergo psychological assessments, diagnosed, and semi-treated.  As jail systems are already lacking in adequate reserves for common prisoners, one can only imagine the deficiencies for proper care of  mentally ill prisoners (who’ve now become patients’).  Since, there is no room on the main floors and these inmates need special observation, they are placed away from the general population in a small cell or solitary confinement.  This is typically a temporary holding place for trouble-makers or those awaiting court.  Solitary confinement, however, has shown to have more of a negative impact on mentally ill prisoners.  Other countries have done away with solitary confinement in their prison systems and have The article mentions that more than 11,000 inmates receive treatment daily, which tops three of the largest state-run hospitals in the country with a combined 4,000 beds.   The president of the American Jail Association, Esteban Gonzalez, stated: “’In every city and state I have visited, the jails have become the de facto mental institutions.’”  A drastic shift is evident, as prison systems no longer only attempt provide protection to citizens and rehabilitate criminals, but also treat mentally ill patients.  Not only do these inmates struggle through treatment for mental stability, but with lack of resources post-prison,  they move forward deprived of treatment, while facing a criminal record, and falter back to misfortune. 
This issue takes place globally, as there is a lack in programs aiding citizens in need of psychiatric treatment due to scant funding.  In addition, many view mental illness as a taboo and do not like to discuss it, let alone be affiliated with it.  An article from NPR identified that the United Nations sponsored a major conference and very briefly mentioned mental illness. It was also pointed out  here, that it may be possible to show these nations the correlation between mental health and physical health, in order to raise more awareness and proactive work  for the topic.  The World is in dire need of more awareness and a positive stance on supporting mental health.  I agree with projects facilitating essential resources and tools for mental-health and drug abuse treatment among prisoners, as described by a county official in the article.  This will aid in sound management and recovery of conditions that are so difficult for most to breakthrough.  The nation as a whole, should weigh in closely on the current state and fate of its country if these numbers continue to increase. 

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