Mental Healthcare of Offenders
We recognize that there is great variety within different human forms. In today’s setting, our organization realizes the fact that there are certain individuals who posses a particular twist in their behavior and need attentive, immediate treatment. However, the challenges posed by that vulnerable patient population require more immediate solutions as the number of juvenile and adult offenders who have been suffering from serious mental disorders and substance abuse continues to grow alarmingly. This paper would properly frame the discussion by defining mental health disorder and how being a mental health offender can affect the proceedings and prosecution of a court case.
I. Mental Health Disorder
In a study done by Wisconsin Mental Health Organization, Mental Health is defined as the overall way in which a person comfortably meets the demands of life. There are many contributing factors that lead to mental health disorder but mostly, it comes from unusual biochemical disturbances going on in a person’s brains or the failure of a person’s mechanism to cope up with stress triggered by events. Although most mental illnesses are treatable, a person is burdened by the emotional and financial toil that they can bring. Treatment is optional but immediate attention is critical for persons suffering from it.
One extreme case of mental health disorder is mental retardation. In court, it must be ensured that people suffering from mental retardation that they receive fair and objective treatment throughout the case proceedings. In a study done by The Arc Group entitled “When people with Mental Health go to court”, they referred to Mental Retardation as an illness that generally shows below average abilities to learn and process information that occurs before a person reaches his adulthood stage. Such illness is non-curable and requires more adoptive kind of patient treatment involving services, training and other support services by medical health practitioners.
II. Mental Health Offenders
Statistics show that there is a rising number of persons with mental health illness that are landing at the criminal justice system for crimes they are not fully aware they committed. However, to address such issue, there must be guidelines that need to be followed in assessing the person’s mental condition and evaluations on what treatments are needed to be done.
The Arc Group noted that the identification of certain patterns of behavior in a person may lead to an indication of unstable mental condition. These maybe when a person has difficulty reading or writing, limited vocabulary, a short attention span, and in understanding or answering questions. Problems in communication can be noticed when a person acts inappropriately with peers or the opposite sex, experiences difficulty in carrying out tasks and gets quickly frustrated by their inability to follow certain directions. The screening strategies may be based on prior school records, history of employments, previous clinical appointments by experts and requests for competency hearing.
The crimes of mentally ill persons are bizarre and in order to understand, counsels should effectively know how to present evidences showing diagnoses on a client’s mental condition during the time of the case presentation. The judicial system should be able to determine whether that person is competent enough to stand trial during the arraignment or pre-trial process or whether a plead of guilty is voluntary. The study made of Arc Group further stated that during pre or ongoing trials: a psychologist with mental healthcare specialization and experience in court must be present along with the forensics, specialized instruments like the “CAST-MR (Competence Assessment for Standing Trial for Defendants with Mental Retardation) should be used to further determined defendants with disability, specialized services that can aid for easy communication process between the client and counsel and to avoid misinterpretation of statements, and juries must be fully aware of the unusual patterns of nonverbal behavior that do not actually demonstrate a lack of remorse in the person’s part.
In a study done by US Probation and Pre-trial Service, the defendant is considered to be suffering from mental health disorder when the individual’s behavior or feelings do not conform to the norms resulting to disorganized thinking, perception, mood, orientation and memory. If proven, offenders may be put in a parole, probation or supervised release after being in prison, under pre-trial supervision awaiting in court appearance, or conditionally released by the Bureau of Prisons Federal Medical Center.
III. Treatment for Mental Health offenders
There are many tools utilized for the treatment of mental health offenders usually ordered by US court or Penal Commission. US Probation and Pre-trial Services further noted that compared to a normal individual, the challenges posed in monitoring the treatment for mentally disordered persons are much more intensive and difficult, often requiring specialized or individualized process. Such treatments may include, but not limited to: psychiatric services done by experts, group counseling done by psychologists involving the individual, family and even peers for substance abusers, individual or group therapy especially for sex offenders, clinical consultations between managing officers and mental health specialists to discuss supervision issues, mode of transportation to and from medical facilities and other forms of medication. These help offenders: to address issues that led to their psychological problems and encounters with the law, to put correctional strategies in motion by maximizing the individual’s potential to live a productive life outside his/her illness, to create public safety from crimes resulting from instability of mental conditions. If such treatments would not suffice, various approaches can be done to allow offenders to grow as an individual and practice his rights but still comply the conditions of release that the court had imposed. If the individual still exhibits certain traits that may threaten public safety and may not heed to corrections implied, the managing officers should initiate court proceedings that will determine the most suitable plan of action for the individual’s case.
The Arc Group. When People With Mental Retardation Go To Court. Retrieved on February 6, 2007, from http://www.thearc.org/ada/court.html
US Probation and Pre-trial Services. Mental Health Treatment. Retrieved on February 6, 2007, from http://www.kywp.uscourts.gov/court_comm/ccmental.pdf
Wisconsin Mental Health Organization. Mental Health. Retrieved on February 8, 2007, from http://www.wimentalhealth.org/About/brochure8p.pdf