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Influx of Mentally Ill Being Imprisoned

August 15th, 2014 at 7:21 am

Cook County criminal lawyers, illegal street drugs, mental health hospital, mental health prison, mental health system, mental illness, mental illness treatment, mentally ill imprisoned, non-violent crime, The Law Offices of Christopher M. CosleySome may be aware of the problem that links mental illness with crime in this country, but many likely do not realize the significance of the problem. The seemingly constant rise in the number of mentally ill individuals who are arrested for non-violent crimes poses a multitude of problems. On the societal level, jails are becoming more overcrowded as taxes are spent to house countless inmates, some of whom arguably are improperly imprisoned. On the individual level, mentally ill people are being punished for committing acts that they may not have otherwise committed if they were well. They often are not getting proper treatment for their condition in prison. A recent news article examined this problem further as it exists in Cook County.

The Statistics

The Cook County Sheriff’s website supposedly posts numbers regarding new arrivals daily on their website. In one week, a single day saw 36 percent of all new arrivals reporting a mental illness. Two days later, that number jumped to 54 percent. Many argue that these numbers are more reflective of a mental health hospital than a prison. The fact remains that the jail has become an accidental treatment center for the many prisoners it houses with a mental illness. This problem is not one that is isolated in Cook County, but rather one that plagues jails across the country. The unfortunate part is that these jails and their staff are not equipped to handle the huge task placed upon them.

The Prisoners

The mentally ill who are imprisoned suffer from anything from bipolar to post-traumatic stress disorder. They may participate in criminal activity when off of their medication, or they may self-medicate with illegal street drugs in an effort to cope with their condition. No matter the path they take, they end up in jail for their offense. Jails have seen a rise in this type of prisoner in cities across the United States, and usually the inmates suffer from serious mental illnesses but have been arrested for non-violent crimes.

Many of the prisoners are housed at jails for relatively short amounts of time, either awaiting trial or to serve shorter prison sentences. However, these short stays further complicate the effort in properly screening and treating those with a mental illness as it limits the time within which to manage medications and provide care. In that way, longer prison terms may be more beneficial for providing better treatment. However, the fact remains that there is a shortage of mental hospitals equipped to handle the mentally ill population in the U.S., and so the job is being improperly left to prisons to handle.

Criminal Defense Attorney

The experienced Cook County criminal lawyers at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley have successfully represented clients in a wide range of criminal matters. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We serve clients in Cook and DuPage counties, as well as the surrounding area.

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