Mental Health and the Prison System

Published: 2021-10-02 19:25:48
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Category: Crime, Justice, Mental Health

Type of paper: Essay

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Who are the victims of mental health and how they are treated within the legal and prison system?
Mental health or mental illness, base on the question, ‘is concern with illnesses of the mind, or with treating illnesses of the mind.’ (Longman, p.890) These illnesses, which affect the mind, create hallucinations that can lead the people who suffer from them to cause harm to the innocent people who fall victim to them. According to the Longman dictionary, the word ‘victim’ refers to ‘someone who has been attacked, robbed or murdered’. (Longman, p.1593) It can also refer to someone who suffers because they are affected by an illness.
In January 1999, a young woman was pushed from behind, in front of a New York City subway train, to her death. Her murderer was a mentally ill patient who had refused to consume his medication. This young woman’s name was Kendra Webdale and the Kendra’s law was named after her. She was considered a victim of mental health. There are many other cases who were fall victim to these illnesses.

Due to their mental illnesses, many people questioned whether these ‘criminals’ should be charged and face the consequences or should they be treated in the hospital for the mentally ill under strict control and supervision. They are being view as the victims of the mental health for the reason that they are not in their ‘right’ minds to judge. This occurs because they are suffering from the illness affecting their mind.
Looking from the patients’ point of view, they are undergoing a lot of stress due to their conditions as they have fears that they are not accepted by the family, friends and society. With the stress they are undergoing, they might not be able to face the fact and would not want to take their medication. This had led to intervention of the legal system to control the situation.
According to Kendra’s Law, a procedure has to be followed for obtaining court orders for certain individuals with mental illness to receive and accept assisted outpatient treatment (AOT). (Office of Mental Health, 2006) The mentally ill individual who can qualify for AOT must be at least 18 years old and shows a sign of being incapable of surviving on his own. In view of the concern that the patient may do serious harm to others in the society, an AOT is more likely to benefit him. The request for AOT can be done by the parent, spouse, sibling, director of a hospital, licensed psychologist or a probation officer.
However, there are some lawyers who contest that the law will only serve to violate the patient’s process protection. In addition, many wonder if the implementation of this law is strong enough to force a person to take medication. There is always the possibility of the patient having tried to seek treatment but failed. As such, the government should not simply laws to force the taking of medication but for the state to provide medication as well.
In the case of the prison system, there has been a significant increase in the number of inmates who are found to be severely mentally ill. Despite the increase in the number of inmates, the medical treatment necessary for this group of inmate did not increase. Moreover, the staff handling them are not properly trained and thus, many of these inmates are being victimized in the prison cells due to their disorganized speech and behaviour. Their inability to communicate well with others may in turn antagonize their officers or fellow inmates.
In conclusion, the victims of mental health do not necessarily refer to only the ones suffering from the illness but those who are indirectly affected as well. The patients should be given proper and better treatment and the society should also be educated on how these patients need to be treated in order to survive in the society.
1.      Harold E. Shabo. 2001. Social Costs: Criminal Justice and Mental Health System Gaps which Contribute to the Criminalization of Mentally Disordered Persons. California.
2.      Longman. 1999. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: International Students Edition. Pearson Education Limited. Spain.
3.      Office of Mental Health. 2006. An Explanation of Kendra’s Law.
4.      About: Mental Health. 2006. Forced Mental Treatment has a Place.
5.      Mental Health Services. 2006. Bureau of Mental Health Services.

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