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Mental health system and criminal justice system Essay.

Mental health system and criminal justice system Essay.


Prison population has increased by over 50% since the Richmond Report on deinstitutionalisation (Australian Bureau of Statistics) with 74% of prisoners in NSW suffering from a psychiatric disorder (Corrections Health Service). This has caused great concerns with mental illness in the criminal justice system. Mental institutions were ‘warehouses’ for the mentally ill and failed to meet basic human rights requirements and treatment. Yet as a result of institutions closing, more mentally ill people began filling the prison system.

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Something needs to be done about mental illness in prisons and there can be two possible solutions. Firstly, mentally ill people who have committed crimes are still criminals therefore treatment that is required can be fulfilled while in prison. Also, prison staff are uneducated in areas of mental health and illness, so staff should be well equipped and educated to deal with such people and adequate diagnosis must be given and early rather than later. Treatment in prison can be described through many of the perspectives.Mental health system and criminal justice system Essay.



The second option is to never allow mentally ill people to be in prison, through proper diagnosis and treatment which can be described through many of the perspectives in specialised care and rehabilitation. As mental institutions closed patients were left to fend for themselves and to choose what their needs and treatments were, and since many people could not, or did not want to, recognise their illness (‘agnosia’) many patients ceased medication which resulted in destitution and subsequently getting themselves involved in criminal activity.

A mentally ill person who has committed a crime and a mentally ill person who has not, cannot receive the same comfort from their treatment. Treatment of course is needed but can occur within prison. A major problem is that prison staff are not educated on the facts of mental illness, therefore do not know how to treat these people. In some cases mentally ill prisoners have been locked in an isolated cell for up to twenty-three hours which makes matters worse (See Appendix 4). Prison staff are not mental health professionals; quite the opposite in fact as their lack of knowledge worsens the situation.Mental health system and criminal justice system Essay.

More accessible health care professionals are needed as there is a shortage of health care professionals to be able to properly deal with mental issues. To help with this issue there needs to be early and proper diagnosis. A lot of prisoners have been found to have mental illness as they have exhibited symptoms of mental illness over a period of time and it is not detected early enough. Going by the DSM IV is a safe way to diagnose people with mental illness, which must be done by a health care professional so adequate treatment/medication can be given, rather than leaving it too late.

A consequence of leaving diagnosis too late is suicide amongst mentally ill prisoners which has become a recent and pressing issue as recently a schizophrenic prisoner Scott Simpson hung himself in his isolated cell in Sydney’s Long Bay Jail as a result of staff not knowing what was wrong and how to deal with him, subsequently locking him up in an isolated cell for up to twenty three hours a day for a period of about two years. (See Appendix 4) Being treated within prison would benefit the person and their illness through many of the perspectives.

Through the Behaviourist perspective, the punishment of being in prison as a consequent of an act should modify the person’s behaviour into knowing that crime is wrong and to not do it again. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy could be achieved by visiting psychiatrists to the prison. In Humanistic psychology a person can learn that committing crime is not a way to proceed to self-actualisation, instead a step down – therefore, from this mistake they can learn and come closer to congruency. Biological psychology looks at medication as a treatment which can be administered during a prison sentence.Mental health system and criminal justice system Essay.

Prison is a better alternative for the institutions of the past where every mentally ill person was treated badly. Although the Richmond report led to the shut down of psychiatric asylums, Richmond himself is calling for an alternative treatment model. (See Appendix 3) Part of Richmond’s report was the counter balance of community based care but the government ignored this part of the report therefore leaving the mentally ill to fend for themselves. People suffering from a mental illness need to be kept out of prison altogether.

Firstly, through proper diagnosis a person can be treated and rehabilitated which will prevent them taking to the streets and becoming arrested. Even if a mentally ill person does commit a crime the answer is to treat them and regulate their behaviour that should be done in a proper psychiatric treatment facility not a prison cell. Prisons already are hazardous places where inmates and staff cannot and do not know how to deal with those with mental illness. Being in prison deteriorates the person’s mental condition rather than improve.

The decision as to whether a person is ‘sick enough’ to not stand trial or go to prison should not be left up to a judge; rather all mentally ill people should acquire treatment and rehabilitation. If a person is diagnosed a treatment plan must be implemented. If the person has a supporting family this can occur within their home otherwise they can receive community based care and if found to be participating in criminal offence they should receive specialised treatment to prevent further criminal behaviour. Through Behaviourism and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy the best treatment can only be given outside of prison within specialised care.

Behaviour modification is an active process that needs constant attention in order for it to be affective. If a person is being treated through the Humanistic perspective, they also will need specialised care and attention, which cannot be met and provided in prison. This is also the case with Biological treatment as medication is not strictly monitored and it is very important that a mentally ill person receives their medication. An example of this is demonstrated again in the case of Scott Simpson. Simpson was meant to be on anti-psychotic medication but in autopsy he had nothing but Panadol in his system. See Appendix 4) This demonstrates the need for specialised care to deal with mental illness even if only medication is required. Prisons cannot cope with the demands of mental illness treatment therefore specialised psychiatric care should replace prison cells for the mentally ill. Both fields of mental health and the criminal justice system are concerned with prediction and control of behaviour. Psychology looks to understand behaviour and the criminal justice system seeks to regulate behaviour. There needs to be better communication between these two systems with a better model in place.

The current system is failing many people with the mistreatment of mentally ill people in prisons, many of whom should not even be there but are put there because it is easy and cheaper for the government rather than providing more available beds in psychiatric wards. The better solution to this problem is specialised treatment in specialised facilities to not only treat but to prevent people with a mental illness committing a crime. It may be more costly but it is for the well being of mentally ill people in society which should be the main aim of the two systems.Mental health system and criminal justice system Essay.

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