We commonly hear that jails and prisons are loaded with mentally ill people. They aren’t. This illusion was created by flawed data and bad assessment, which actually harms the mentally ill who already struggle to find adequate treatment & escape stigma.
The legal system often struggles to define and manage mental illnesses in criminal cases, but personality disorders make the issue of definition and culpability even more complex.
Media and public figures often pair mass shootings and gun violence with mental illness. This is a reckless and ill-informed myth that harms the mentally ill and results in widespread misrepresentations of mental illness. It also fails to account for those who are truly guilty of these atrocities.
Defendants may be suspected of having inadequate present knowledge of their legal cases. When this occurs, they require a formal evaluation that may render them incompetent or unfit to stand trial. This can be a complicated psycholegal issue that impacts more than just the defendant.
The mentally ill are increasingly interacting with every level of the criminal justice system, even though this system was never designed to function in this role.
In this series, I cover several places and ways that the mentally ill encounter the legal system, starting with Part I: Law Enforcement & Incarceration
Deinstitutionalization failed to deliver on promises to free the mentally ill from needless hospitalization. The lack of adequate planning, funding and availability of community resources led to many outgoing patients becoming homeless and/or incarcerated. Over time, the mentally ill have been interacting with the legal system at all levels at increasing rates. This has created strains on the legal system and poor outcomes for the mentally ill.