When researching mental illness and incarceration, one very startling statistic pops up: 1 in 5 people currently incarcerated in jails or prisons across the United States are living with a diagnosed mental illness. When one looks at the juvenile justice system, the numbers grow even more staggering, with a whopping 70% of kids going through the system having some form of mental health problem. What does this mean for those with mental illnesses going through the justice system? Rather than getting the proper care they need, they will instead be in a place that will more than likely continue to worsen their condition.
At NAMI, we’ve done a great deal in recent years to bring these issues to light, and to take awareness to high political levels. Just two short years ago, we made a public warning to the US Senate that placing a person with a mental condition into solitary confinement for any reason is a lot like dousing a fire in gasoline; it doesn’t help to solve the problem, only to greatly worsen it. This was done in our effort to spread awareness to the people of California, as well as the rest of the United States, including the policymakers in charge of bringing real change to those within the system suffering from a mental condition.
While things are improving for those with mental illness, that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop the awareness. The mentally ill held in these facilities are still being subjected to poor, unfair, and damaging treatment which serves to worsen, rather than improve, their condition, and we cannot afford to stop working towards better treatment until the veil has been lifted and these happenings are no more.
There are also ways that you can help to improve the lives of these individuals, and to improve how they are treated in an effort to better their condition. By writing to your state senators, congressmen, and other policymakers regarding fair treatment for the mentally ill through the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Acts, you can do your part in ensuring that these individuals can be treated fairly and helped rather than harmed.
we advocate for mental health and we have support.