Today, victims of violent crime are more likely to have a mental disorder. The prejudice extends to the criminal justice system, where people with mental illness are regarded as criminals, arrested, accused, and imprisoned for a more significant time than people without mental illness. However, although there is new emphasis and media attention on the significance of mental health in the wake of such tragedies, the connection between mental illness and criminality is too frequently blurred. Generally, the consensus is that mental health and crime rates are connected because those with mental illness are more likely to engage in violent or aggressive acts, a disproportionate number of individuals with mental illnesses are detained, and finally, there is a widespread belief that behavioral and conduct issues are signs of psychological disorders.
People with mental illness may be more likely to act violently if they do not get the proper care, are actively experiencing delusions, or have a history of paranoia. Essentially, these people frequently exhibit the symptoms of mental illnesses such as command hallucinations. A long-term substance use problem is the most significant and independent risk factor for criminality and violence among people with mental illness. Based on Vancouver Police Department (VPD), these individuals are addicted to alcohol and other drugs (Morton, 2021). The relationship between mental illness and crime is intricate and has significant societal repercussions. As a result, various legislations have been put in place that requires drug-addicted adults and juvenile to be treated whether or not they have committed a crime.
A disproportionate number of people with mental illnesses are detained and imprisoned frequently due to a lack of knowledge and tools for managing these people. The police often arrest psychiatric patients for infractions like jaywalking or loitering to maintain law and order. Consequently, mental health patients interact more frequently with the police and the courts. For instance, between the years 2001 to 2006, VPD reported that there were over 5 000 contacts between law enforcers and chronic offenders annually, translating to 14 per day (Morton, 2021). Lack of staffing and training in the judicial system worsens the situation, which may be why people with mental illnesses make up an increasing percentage of the population in jails and prisons. Numerous psychiatric disease symptoms include antisocial or illegal actions, such as wandering, resulting in the misguided belief that mental illness and criminal behavior are related.
Finally, criminality and psychiatric disease are mistakenly associated in the public mind due to the widespread belief that behavioral and conduct issues are signs of psychological disorders. The common mislabeling of criminals as having a psychiatric disorder is the leading cause of the high reported rates of mental illness in jail and prison populations. The statistics are often based on societal factors rather than comprehensive medical and mental evaluation and diagnosis. Unfortunately, even the legal system has neglected these individuals’ needs and referred to them as “chronic offenders” (Morton, 2021). One such diagnosis frequently and arbitrarily ascribed to many in the prison population is antisocial personality disorder. The label is increasingly used to portray criminals as sufferers of psychiatric diseases.
In brief, because it is widely believed that behavioral and conduct problems are indicators of psychological disorders, there is a consensus that there is a relationship between mental health and crime rates. As a result, an inter-professional team of psychiatrists, social workers, and patient advocates is needed to identify and minimize risk factors that cause mental health patients to commit crimes to break the link between mental illness and criminality. The system would identify at-risk patients early and assist in averting circumstances that would lead people with mental illness into interaction with the criminal justice system. Lastly, there needs to be a determined effort to educate the community and those involved in the criminal justice scheme to eradicate misconceptions, avert mischaracterization and stop mistaking criminals for psychiatric patients.
Morton, J.C. (2021). A tough approach that might work. In G. Lipschutz, S. Scarry, & J. Scarry (Eds.), The Canadian writer’s workplace. (9th ed., Unit V: Major Readings). Nelson Education.