The correlation between mental health issues and criminal acts is one that continues to gain scrutiny from government officials and mental health professionals. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, more than half of inmates in state prisons show signs of mental illness, an alarming percentage.
When mental health problems go untreated for individuals currently incarcerated and for those already released, this may result in several negative consequences for not only these men and women but for the community at large as well.
1. Multiple arrests
Individuals who suffer from different types of mental illness may experience multiple arrests and more than one period of incarceration. The chemical imbalances that cause certain behaviors, such as a possible increase in criminal acts, may go untreated in these individuals, which increases the risk of them returning to jail in a cycle of mental imbalance and imprisonment.
2. Increased risk of prison violence
When those suffering from mental illness serve time in prison for a violent crime, they may repeat such behaviors inside the prison walls if the problem goes untreated. Certain mental problems can cause violent outbursts putting both other prisoners and prison facility inmates at risk for injury.
3. A reduced chance for rehabilitation
When individuals with untreated mental problems such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder complete a jail sentence, their chances of improving their lives through community rehab programs may fall significantly. Erratic behavior, poor sleep and a return to addictive habits may all occur unless these individuals receive treatment before they rejoin the general populace.
State prisons may improve conditions for inmates with mental illness by increasing employee training and increasing mental health awareness for inmates both past and present.