New York Civil Rights And Criminal Defense Lawyers

The problem with mental illness and incarceration

On Behalf of | Wednesday Sep 30, 2020 | Civil Rights

While criminal behavior lacks justification in many people’s eyes, mental illness plays a critical role in many crimes in New York. Perpetrators who suffer from ongoing mental trauma and subsequent illness often lack access to needed resources to provide support and healing.

Once incarcerated, the issues for mentally ill inmates may only worsen and create a larger problem. Regardless of their prison sentence, inmates have the right to receive help in managing their illness.

Dangers of mental illness

People suffering from mental illness while incarcerated pose a significant threat to themselves and those around them. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that of all of the people incarcerated in the United States each year, 2 million of them suffer from mental illness. Ongoing problems often worsen during incarceration when people face restrictions and isolation.

Inmates with deteriorating mental health are at a higher risk of victimization. Their behavior may pose a safety threat to other inmates. Their risk of suicide may increase as well. If released from jail, people with mental illness struggle to find employment and are more prone to reoffending.

Health care accessibility

It is not uncommon for inmates to lack access to adequate health care during incarceration. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, prisons that restrict access to requested and needed health care including mental wellness support, are in danger of violating the U.S. Constitution and the rights of inmates.

Therapy and timely intervention may help inmates to develop strategies for managing challenging emotions. They can learn to recognize triggers. With ongoing help from trained professionals, inmates may effectively learn to manage their weaknesses and work toward healing and recovery. The skills they learn while incarcerated can provide instrumental support when they transition back to life outside of prison.