Mental illness and the criminal defense system

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Dallas residents grappling with mental illness face many challenges. Many mental illnesses go untreated, and those who get treatment often struggle with finding the right medication and dealing with the side effects. Both these things may contribute to negative changes in behavior, such as anger and violence, sometimes resulting in a criminal charge.

Mental illness is rampant in jails and prisons

Unfortunately, Texas jails and prisons are filled with individuals battling mental illness. This is an issue not just in Texas, but nationwide. The U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that approximately 2 million individuals with serious mental illness enter jails throughout the country every year.

Additionally, 44% of jail inmates and 37% of prisoners reported having a mental health issue. There are many reasons for the high number of mentally ill individuals in jail or prison. Some of these include:

  • Untreated or improperly treated mental illness
  • Lack of safe housing
  • Lack of mental health treatment options

Another main factor is that police officers and those involved in the court system are often not properly trained on mental illness and how it can manifest itself through criminal actions. However, some courts are now recognizing the benefits of alternatives to incarceration, such as mental health treatment courts, outpatient treatment or diversion programs.

You cannot afford a criminal charge

The consequences of a criminal charge or conviction are severe and can have lasting effects. People may lose jobs, careers and future opportunities. The criminal process causes physical and mental health to deteriorate, and for people with mental illness, involvement with the criminal justice system often increases mental illness symptoms. Many may not receive their medications when incarcerated, causing their mental health to decline even further.

Even worse, once an individual becomes a part of the criminal justice system, it is extremely hard to get out. People are often “stuck” in the system for the rest of their lives, and this is especially hard on those with mental illness.

If you are facing criminal charges and believe your mental illness may have contributed to your actions, having a strong defense is critical. Experienced criminal defense attorneys can help.

 

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