Mental Illness In The Prison System Continues To Be A Problem Despite Government Initiatives

It seems rather common for the media to focus little on criminals once they are charged and sentenced to imprisonment.

That is perhaps a misstep as behind prison cell walls there is a prevalence of not just those who have committed crimes, but also those who are mentally ill and have been housed in a place where staff and conditions are not equipped to deal with those illnesses.

Los Angeles County recently took a step forward in ending the prevalence in the mentally ill in prison with a new initiative to help divert those who are mentally ill from prison into treatment programs instead.

While the initiative may be arguably substantial progress, it seems small in comparison to the amount of inmates who are mentally ill and still face an environment that exacerbates their condition rather than helping it.

“I would talk and hold conversations just in my little crazy world, I guess you would say, just to keep me company,” said 52-year-old Jan Green to The Huffington Post about her isolation while imprisoned in New Mexico’s Valencia County Detention Center.

The report about inmates similar to Green goes on to explain that isolation is the current method that prisons across the country use to deal with the mentally ill who otherwise are in danger among the general population of the prison.

This turns into a vicious circle as isolation tends make symptoms of mental illness, psychosis and depression in particular, worse than they may have been.

To fight against this vicious circle, government officials in Los Angeles County “plan to give nonviolent felony defendants arrested for crimes like marijuana possession, resisting police and car theft the chance to complete an 18-month program,” according to the Los Angeles Times .

Their report goes on to say that “the program will require eligible defendants with serious mental health problems to go through a series of assessments before being paired with a case worker at San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center.

The program’s participants will then be placed in transitional housing.” Although this plan is a step in the right direction, recent psychology studies suggest that the prevalence of mental illness in prison is still extremely high.

Psychology Today reported in 2013, according to the Department of Justice, nearly 1.3 million people with mental illness are incarcerated as opposed to the 70,000 people being adequately serviced in psychiatric facilities.

Perhaps with an expansion of the L.A.

County initiative to other states, people suffering from mental illness will get proper treatment and ultimately decrease their high prevalence in the prison system.


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