Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:Criminology

Document 1

Mental illness is a general term that is used to refer to all the diagnosable mental conditions, mental conditions that lead to changing a person’s thinking, behavior, and mood. It is these changes that often cause alterations from the expected normal behavior of an individual and hence often categorized as a crime. These two topics have been a major point of discussion for many years, and this paper will attempt to explain the relationship between mental disorders and crime (Varshney et al. By doing so, the paper will focus on specific mental illnesses; anti-social personality and schizophrenia, and crimes such as drug-related offenses, violent and property related offenses and how the mentioned conditions and crimes demonstrate the unique relationship in question. In certain academic fields like psychology and psychiatry, the term mental disorder has been the main topic for much debates in relation to its application and definition. Even after the many discussions, there is still no one universal definition of the terms and the term is defined now depending on specific situations (Varshney et al. However, it is not recently that the term has been defined according to what constitutes a mental disorder. Psychologists define the term as a clinically relevant behavioral or psychological pattern that occurs in a person and is linked with present disability or distress with a significantly high risk of suffering pain or a substantial loss of freedom (Varshney et al. For a condition to be considered a mental disorder in an individual, it must manifest itself as a behavioral, biological or psychological dysfunction in the affected person.

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According to that definition of mental illness, it is clearly recognized that there are two basic principles that guide the diagnosis of mental disorders. Criminal activities can be classified as either less or more severe acts of criminality. Nonetheless, certain acts of vandalism or jaywalking are considered as severe offenses just like physical attacks or murder (Joyal et al. Be that as it may, the areas in criminology that raise the most attention as to its causes are the more weighty and brutal of attacks, homicide, and property related crimes. One similarity between the causes of crime and those of mental illnesses is that in the field of criminology also has different theories that target to explain the real reasons as to why people commit such vicious crimes. It is due to this reason that there have been various discussions on the possible causes of unlawful acts.

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In some cases, the violent reactions may be as a result of them feeling threatened that is always because of the resurfacing of delusional thoughts that make them feel like defending themselves in order to survive (Kinner, Spittal and Borschmann 106). However, in situations where unaccepted or unlawful actions are displayed, other factors associated with the condition like environmental factors will be considered. The main concern of researchers on individuals with this condition has been explicitly on the linkage between the ones with suffering from this illness and the high chances of violent actions they may display due to this condition (Kinner, Spittal and Borschmann 106). Homicides are the most common unlawful acts associated with this illness. Information from recognized correctional facilities, and psychiatric institutions that accommodate a significant number of offenders with mental illnesses have raised concerns and have been cited as proof of this unique relationship between the disease as one of the major mental conditions and criminality (Kinner, Spittal and Borschmann 106).

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Through continual tendencies to violate the rights of other people, they finally end up clashing with the criminal justice system. This is a fact that is supported by the significant numbers of prisoners with the personality disorder in mental health institutions. Studies show that almost eighty percent of prisoners meet the diagnostic criterion for this condition which is a clear indication of the relationship between the personality disorder and unlawful behaviors ("Mental Illness And The Criminal Justice System" 187). The assessment of the condition is also critical in the forensic settings which also adds to the idea that there is a relationship between mental illnesses and criminality. Also, it is an undisputable fact that alcohol plays certain roles in violent acts and crime. This assumption has in most cases proved to be false as individuals that mentally ill fail to comply with their prescribed medication and often end up violating laws or some social norms.

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The violation of laws always results to the commission of a crime. The federal government of the United States of America came up with more effective ways to handle situations involving mentally ill individuals ("Mental Illness And The Criminal Justice System" 187). To increase the contact between law enforcers and mentally ill individuals, American law enforcement agencies have implemented various programs. One of the most effective training programs was tailored to equip officers with the resources required to efficiently and properly handle the mentally ill.  International Journal of Forensic Mental Health 10. Web. Mar. Kinner, Stuart A, Matthew J Spittal, and Rohan Borschmann. Suicide And The Criminal Justice System: A More Complete Picture. Web. Mar.

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