The Mentally Ill in the American Criminal Justice System

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), a mental disorder is “a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress in social, occupational, or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. Socially deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) and conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual, as described above.” Mental health cases remain a challenge within the criminal justice system. Mental illnesses in the American criminal justice system are often untreated or even created with the methods used to rehabilitate convicts. Is it possible that the United States’ correctional facilities be a potential breeding ground of mental illnesses? This piece of writing will be providing historical instances, view-points from medical professionals, examples incompetence in the many echelons of the criminal justice system, and statistical facts that may suggest so in recent years. This will be focused on theoretical research, using an interpretative and empirical-analytical approach, correlation/regression analysis, qualitative and quantitative data from previous studies to aid my research.

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