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Mental Health and Prisons, Article Review Example

Pages: 2

Words: 562

Article Review

Issue being addressed

In this information sheet the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva highlighted the plight of prisoners with mental disorders. There are estimated to be some 450 million people in the world suffering from mental health disorders. The US is an example of a country with a very large prisoner population and many of the inmates suffer from mental illness. Some have had mental illness prior to being incarcerated whilst others develop mental illness in prison. The WHO states that prisons are the worst environment for mentally ill people. In addition it increases the risk of suicide because of the depression and inadequate mental health services within the prisons. (Drew).

Rules and Principles of law

The states are still scrambling in the determination of a legal framework that embraces the rights of mentally ill prisoners. Although the Supreme Court has dealt with a fair volume of cases this has normally dealt with constitutional rights and breaches of the Eighth amendment. It has become evident that many mentally ill patients should not be in prison but receiving treatment in specialist hospital equipped to deal with their needs. Their situation in prison only deteriorates, leave to high rates of suicide or early releases. This often throwing them out onto the streets with low survival rates.

Analysis

The World Health Organization emphasises the point that prisons are often used as dumping grounds in order to remove mentally ill patients from society. This leads to a large proportion of mentally ill people that go both unnoticed and untreated. Further mentally ill people are stigmatized and discriminated against. This persists in prisons where they are further alienated. The WHO believes that effective treatment does exist for most mental health patients but this often in short supply with limited resources available. The result is often inadequate intervention with only a small number of people getting the medical treatment that they need. For many courts prison is considered the easy option for dealing with mentally ill criminals.

Prison and correctional Officers face a number of challenges today. Amongst the most significant of these is that they have no control over the number or kind of people that are sent to prison or the length of their sentence. A lot of the Officers are unprepared for the type of prisoner that they will supervise and historically have been under funded for this type of work. The strain of overcrowding in the prisons has resulted in the Federal Government moving more towards a system of outsourcing this to private sector business operations with specialist expertise in this area. The private sector officers have more of a zero tolerance factor to anti-social or bad behaviour and can impose additional 30 day sentences for infraction of prison rules. This has moved the prisons more distant from rehabilitation programmes and more to a commercial basis of incarceration.

Conclusion

Prison Officers are challenged by dealing with the increasing numbers of inmates that are suffering from mental illness or substance abuse. Hence these people are being based in prisons as opposed to that of special care facilities. The prison officers do not receive the appropriate medical training in order to deal with this group of people. There are also increasing number of juveniles being processed through the adult prison system and some of these with no possibility of parole.

Works Cited

N.Drew, J.Beynon. Mental Health and Prisons. Information Sheet. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2005.

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