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I have been having some random thoughts lately about mentally ill prisoners. I know, this is a random thought but one I have been fascinated with since I did a paper on mentally ill juvenile delinquents in college. The thoughts popped back in my head recently when I heard about a guy I knew in high school that is four years older then me. We hung out with the same group of people and he was in the same grade as my sister (small school so you know everyone in every grade). We were diagnosed with Bipolar at the same time and also were placed in the same psychiatric hospital at the same time (where he ultimately escaped). After this, he was a huge help to me. He had gotten himself better with the correct treatment plan and was a huge help in trying to get me to do the same. Time went on and we lost touch over the years. He has gotten in a lot of trouble has been in several accidents and even lost one of his legs from a serious car accident. He has been a woman beater, a severe drug addict and a convict. He recently got out of prison and this past weekend I heard he had been arrested for stabbing his brother multiple times (his brother is fine). Everyone's reaction was "eww he deserves to rot in jail," "can't say I'm surprised " "what a scumbag,"  etc. While mine, was sorrow. I felt truly sorry for him. I know he struggles with severe mental health issues and I also know he has rages which a lot of his "friends" enjoyed getting a reaction out of him. He has a terrible drug addiction as well. I genuinely feel sad that he has gotten to such a low. I know he is very sick and needs treatment for not only his multiple mental illnesses but his alcohol and drug addictions. I truly feel he needs to be placed in a high security mental health facility, not a prison cell. 

Perhaps my sadness towards this person and people like him is why I went in this field of work. I worked with teenagers that had severe criminal histories as well as mental illness. They were die hard gang members, rapists, drug addicts and even murderers. And I loved them. These kids were mainly victims of nature vs. nurture. I had parents that worked very hard to get me help and still do. These kids had parents that were physically, mentally and sexually abusive toward them and were severe drug addicts. 

I thought it would be interesting to get some statistics together like I did for my paper to show you how many people are being placed in the justice system and not receiving help. First, I want you to know. Some people in the prison systems regardless of their illnesses DESERVE to be there. They cannot be saved. They are passed that point of return. I even saw kids I knew would never get well. They were just to far gone. I also believe that if the justice system did psych evaluations on every repeat offender, nearly all would be diagnosed with a mental health issue. 

This is a topic I am truly passionate about and have often thought about it. Here are those statistics I promised! 

  • 73% of all female prisoners have mental illness(s) 
  • 55% of male prisoners have mental illness(s)
  • In 1998 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimated 283,000 inmates suffered from mental illness and in 2006 that number was estimated to be 1.25 million
  •  According to Human Rights Watch, deficient mental health services in prisons and jails leave prisoners under-treated or not treated at all. Across the country, prisoners with mental health problems face a shortage of qualified staff, lack of facilities and prison rules that interfere with treatment. "Human Rights Watch", 2006
  • Prison staff often punish mentally ill offenders for symptoms of their illness, such as being noisy, refusing orders, self mutilating or even attempting suicide. Mentally ill prisoners are thus more likely than others to end up housed in especially harsh conditions, including isolation, that can push them over the edge into acute psychosis. "Human Rights Watch", 2006
This was just a couple to give you a general idea of what I was referring to. It really is a controversial yet interesting topic. Give me your thoughts! If you disagree, disagree! If you agree, agree! If you don't know, it gave you something to think about which is what my purpose behind this post was. 

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