Addressing the Special Problems of Mentally Ill Prisoners: A Small Piece of the Solution to Our Nation's Prison CrisisExpressO (2010)
After years of neglect, policymakers must confront a crisis in our prisons created by the increasing number of mentally ill prisoners. Mentally ill prisoners are both vulnerable and troublesome. Apart from their special needs, they are an increasing segment of the prison population. Their numbers have risen roughly in proportion with the release of the mentally ill from mental hospitals and the closing of those institutions. As states look for ways to reduce prison costs, meaningful reform may be in the air. That may allow a reexamination of policies that have led to the increase in mentally ill-prisoners. But if reform takes place, it should be done right. Part of the problem with sentencing generally and with the dramatic increase in mentally ill prisoners is that public policy has been driven by anecdotes and headline cases – as a result, legislation is driven by exaggeration rather than by careful analysis. Less obvious is how misinformation led to the increase in mentally ill prisoners. And so this essay discusses how the movement to release the civilly committed mentally ill has resulted in the increased number of mentally ill prisoners. The point of that inquiry is to learn some lessons about how we made mistakes in that instance. Thereafter I apply those lessons to today’s discussions about reforming the prison system as it relates to mentally ill prisoners.
Publication DateSeptember 10, 2010
Citation InformationMichael Vitiello. "Addressing the Special Problems of Mentally Ill Prisoners: A Small Piece of the Solution to Our Nation's Prison Crisis" ExpressO (2010)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/michael_vitiello/5/