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This publication explores the difficulty of incarcerating mentally ill persons in the United States. Because of the nature of their disorders, these people are susceptible to committing minor offenses (Canady, 2016), and as a result, they frequently end up in jail.
However, while the existing rules and regulations controlling the penitentiary system exist to enforce the penal system's purposes, they fail to protect and correctly place the mentally ill when they enter the system. County jails and state prisons hold as much as ten times more the number of mentally ill patients than state psychiatric hospitals (Canady, 2016) because of lack of facilities to cater for all of them in the state hospitals. With such high numbers, the issue of whether the staff in the jails know how to handle these patients has come up, and if they do not, the need to train them as they temporarily house and interact with them. They should be able to care for them as inmates with severe mental illness have been found to come to harm in detention centers.
They should not be placed in extreme isolation (Metzner, 2003) as their psychiatric conditions will not improve, will become aggravated or will deteriorate. Instead, residential treatment programs should be established in such institutions to cater for them and improve their conditions.
These treatment programs will ensure that these patients, especially the medicated ones, get appropriate care even if they cannot get to the state hospitals, providing mental health treatment, increasing protection and medication supervision.
Canady, V. A. (2016). Survey finds county jails unequipped for inmates with SMI. Mental
Health Weekly, 26(28), 7-8. doi:10.1002/mhw.30686
Metzner J.L. (2003). Mental health considerations for segregated inmates. In: Standards for
Health Services in Prisons. Chicago, IL: National Commission on Correctional Health Care; 2003:241-254.
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