Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System

Subject: Law
Pages: 2
Words: 568
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: School


Mental illness in the criminal justice system is a common occurrence in United States. Many inmates in US prisons are suffering mentally (Johnson, 2014). People with mental illnesses and others with emotional problems constantly contact the police when in crisis. They are imprisoned to enhance public safety and stability in the community. Lurigio and Harris (2009) argue that the police are the gatekeepers in the criminal justice. They interact with people possessing serious mental illnesses. Most of these people are arrested for burglary and assaults.

Increase in crises resulting from mental illnesses result partly from court’s failure to recognize mental illness as a factor contributing to high crime rates and because of racial and economic differences (Lurigio & Harris, 2009). This is in accordance with law enforcement authorities. Police departments, jails and court houses report that those who care for the mentally ill in the prisons and court houses are overburdened with heavy responsibilities.

Mental Illness

Many of these sectors lack resources, knowledge and skills on how to deal with cases of mentally ill persons. Justice department concluded that approximately 1.2 million convicts in United States have mental illnesses. This is along with national assessment done among prisoners. Johnson (2014) records that 64% of mentally ill persons are in jails, 56% are in state prisons and 45% are in federal prisons.

Most of mental illness inmates who are arrested suffer from chronic self-mutilator. Johnson (2014) indicates that some mentally ill inmates, who suffer from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are dressed with hockey masks and thick hand gloves to prevent them from removing their eyes. The mentally sick complain that they do not want to see evil again.

Mental illnesses cause one to kill, which lead to arrest of the culprit. A good example is that of a young man from California who killed people in a hotel at Washington Navy Yard.

Tulsa police are reported to search for beds for approximately ten thousand mentally ill people who are in need of emergency treatment. Police officers report to transport mentally ill patients from their houses (Lurigio & Harris, 2009).

Most mentally ill patients require more than two policemen responsible for transporting the patients as a safety precaution. Law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma report that criminal justice in combination with mental systems is busy transporting mentally ill people to hospitals. Most of these patients are treated like criminals while in jails. Department of Mental health and substance Abuse Services in Oklahoma reports that police agencies have transported more than 1 million people to hospitals.


Oklahoma commissioner comments that emergency beds that hold the mentally sick ill are few. In response to this, the police patrol the city at night to assist those who are mentally ill. This is in order to reduce congestion in wards caring for mental illness. Schizophrenia mental condition may cause fatal injuries and death (Lurigio &Harris 2009). An example is of a man was reportedly attempting to confront his mother while holding a screwdriver.

Lurigio and Harris (2009) propose special lessons, such as training of police officers, adding special units and conducting crisis intervention teams (CIT) programs and seminars. Precise tools that are responsible for constructing and administering drugs should be used to screen and assess psychiatric disorders. Treatment approaches that will quickly respond to these problems should be adopted. The judicial system should be supported financially to assist in responding to health needs.


Johnson, K. (2014). Mental illness cases swamp criminal justice system.

Lurigio, A., & Harris, A. (2009). The mentally ill in the criminal justice system. An overview of Historical Causes and Suggested Remedies, 2 (12), 1-21.