Mental Health Issues Impacting Justice
Across the country, jails and prisons are filled with people who suffer from a variety of mental health issues. More than half of individuals in prisons and over sixty percent of those in jails suffer from mental health problems. Isn’t there a better way?
Impact of Mental Health Issues on Incarceration
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that incarcerated individuals who suffer from mental health issues often have previous convictions. Thus, they tend to serve lengthier sentences than do their counterparts without previous arrests and/or mental health challenges. We know that mental health conditions, just like physical health issues, tend to worsen without treatment, which can lead to additional problems with the criminal justice system. Some states are working to train police and to create diversion programs for those who need better access to mental health services.
Because police are generally the first professionals on the scene of an altercation involving someone who suffers from mental health issues, many states are developing Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT’s) to assist with assessment and de-escalation in crisis situations. This, in turn, results in fewer arrests, greater access to diversion programs, and fewer injuries to police and others. In a collaborative effort, police and CIT members impact communities by reducing severe outcomes involving the mentally ill. Practitioners use finely tuned interviewing, assessment, and negotiation skills, and are able to identify the effects of various psychotropic drugs and react accordingly. Even suicidal individuals may find that interactions with these teams can be life-saving.
In addition to interventions prior to arrest, many states utilize diversion programs in lieu of incarceration, giving subjects the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions, receive the help they need, and have their records cleared in time. Research demonstrates that individuals who have these opportunities are re-arrested at lower rates and spend less time behind bars.
Many states are suspending Medicaid coverage during incarceration, rather than canceling it altogether, providing recipients the medical and financial assistance they need post incarceration. This can be an important factor in post incarceration treatment options, ultimately impacting recidivism in a favorable way.
Hope in Maryland
Here in Maryland, there are a number of mental health interventions designed to assist those with addiction and/or mental health issues when they have run-ins with the law:
- More and better training in behavioral health for police, correctional officers, probation and parole officers;
- Greater use of Crisis Intervention Teams that divert offenders to assistance programs rather than the criminal justice system;
- Better access to community resources that focus on behavioral health;
- 30-day prescriptions for psychiatric medications when individuals are released;
- Suspension, rather than cancellation of Medicaid during incarceration.
Advocating for You
At The Law Office of Hammad S. Matin, P.A., our experienced, compassionate La Plata criminal defense attorneys assist individuals and their families when mental health issues contribute to entanglements with the criminal justice system. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our La Plata & Waldorf office today.