Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Marc Levin: Mental Illness and the Texas Criminal Justice System

The relationship between crime and mental
illness has always been complex. Contemporary
attitudes and knowledge concerning the
treatment of mental illness indicate the urgent
need for careful restudy and reshaping
of this relationship.
Reformers in the late 1960s and early 1970s
pressed successfully for deemphasizing institutional
care, which they contended often
led to abuse of patients. Their idea was that
patients could function in society with supervised
reliance on medications for the control of
erratic, sometimes anti-social, behavior. In the
1950s mental institutions housed three times
as many patients as prisons held convicts.
Both populations, at that, were small by current
standards. Throughout the U.S. today,
prison inmates total more than 2 million,
compared with only 338,029 in 1970. General
population growth is partly responsible;
even more significant factors are increased
crime and tougher sentencing laws. In Texas,
the prison population is 13 times larger than
in 1970—12,000 back then vs. more than
157,000 today.
Particularly striking is the recent estimate
that “deinstitutionalization”—the release of
mental patients into the general population
—now accounts for up to 14 percent of the
growth in incarceration. Today, eight times
as many mentally ill persons are admitted
into prisons and jails as mental hospitals.
Mentally ill offenders also contribute to the
probation and parole caseloads. Texas has a
significant percent of offenders with mental
illness throughout its prison, probation, and
parole systems.

Mental illness also has a substantial impact
on county jails. Of the 1 million offenders
jailed every year, 17 percent are former
MHMR clients. Some 20 percent of Harris
County Jail inmates receive medications for
mental illness.
Here's the rest of the story from Texas Public Policy Foundation, Center for Effective Justice.

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