The Mental Health System in Crisis Mental illness has become an epidemic today. Penitentiaries and prisons have turned into the ultimate destination for those with painstaking mental or severe emotional impairment. There is widespread acknowledgement that people with severe mental illnesses should ideally be cared for by public health services or equivalent psychiatric facilities (and therefore diverted out of the criminal justice system as noted by the (Department of Health and Home Office, 1992; Department of Health, 1999) Unfortunately, over the last few years, the number of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system has increased steadily. The World Health Report 2001: Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. Geneva, World Health Organization estimated that 450 million (almost half a billion) people worldwide suffer from mental or behavioral disorders. This virulent disease of the mind is especially prevalent in prison populations. The President's New Freedom Comm'n on Mental Health reported, “The crisis in the mental health system in the United States has undoubtedly contributed to the number of mentally ill prisoners.” As the same presidential advisory commission in recent years reported, the mental health system is “in disarray.” At the turn of the 21st century Abramsky & Fellner, of Human Rights Watch noted: “There are more than 200,000—perhaps as many as 300,000—men and women in U.S. jails and prisons suffering from mental disorders, including such serious illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.” Since then it has undeniably risen even more. NAMI and the Center for Mental Health Services ‘estimate that between 2.6% (8,086,000) and 5.4% (16,800,000) of U.S. adults have some forms of serious mental illness.' It has reached every bend and turn of society. The Department of Corrections (DOC) mental health system is in increasing distress as prisons are bloated with those that are mentally and emotionally impaired. The DOC is at best inept, fatigued and disconnected. The National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI), Fort Wayne cited that “fewer than 55,000 Americans currently receive treatment in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, almost 10 times that number -- nearly 500,000 -- mentally ill men and women are serving time in U.S. jails and prisons.” Reaginald Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department of Corrections concluded, “We are the gatekeepers of a lot of persons who are mentally ill…We don't like the idea that we're being charged with fixing a lot of the woes of our communities…I became a de facto director of a major mental health system."
In the book “Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness” authored by Pete Earley noted: “More than 300,000 are in jails and prisons. Another half million are on court-ordered probation. The largest public facilities for the mentally ill are jails and prisons. They have become our new asylums.) Penitentiaries and state prisons were never intended as facilities for caring for the needs of the mentally ill and needs to be reevaluated and prison inmates with major psychiatric illnesses need more consideration for their release as they are at greater risk to have numerous recurrences of repeat incarceration in a ‘revolving-door’ phenomenon.
Incarcerations in penitentiaries and prisons were absolutely not calculated as services for the mentally impaired. It has become one of their principal responsibilities today has brought with it more injury to the mentally impaired. For years, courts have treated the mentally impaired with the same detachment accorded criminal defendants. The consequences have been demoralizing. Twice as many people that are mentally impaired live in penitentiaries than in mental institutions. Often their circumstances deteriorate, escalating their proclivity to act in such a way that society rejects. As a result, the mentally