The Link Between Mental Health and Crime

When people are convicted of a crime the public’s typical belief is that “if you do the crime, you have to serve the time.”  That however, is where the though process stops.  People forget that at the end of their sentence, these same people are to come back into the general population.  Although the experience of jail and prison is assumed to be enough to change behavior, it rarely is.  Time and time again the same people appear in court to the same judges and serve the same sentences.  This is cycle that not only effects the lives of those people, but also the public as our dollars go toward keeping these same people behind bars.  It would be more efficient to ensure that these people go through a rehabilitation process that could help them not repeat those same criminal offenses.

Research shows that repeat offenders can suffer from different mental illnesses that affect the way that interact with societies laws which can lead to crimes such as shoplifting, public drunkenness, drug offenses, etc. .  In Shelby county a new mental health court aims to combat this cycle.   This court will allow criminals with mental illness to appeal to their case and lessen their sentence while also completing a mental health program. These cases will not be considered for extreme violent offenses such as stabbing, shooting, etc. however this can help prevent offenders from repeating their actions.

They’re people who have serious, persistent mental health issues, and we see them over and over…We would be involved in their life for a year, and get them set up with… what they need.   – Judge Gerald Skahan

The stigma our society has on mental health is one where we expect people with these conditions to simply “get over” their condition.  We as a people need to help prevent crime by cutting the problem at its source.  We need to help people so that we live a safer community.

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