Nature And Scope Of The Issue

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Nature and Scope of the Issue An unfortunate reality in today’s society is the gross overrepresentation of persons with mental illness in the criminal justice system. According to Teplin (1984), persons with mental illness have been found to be almost twice as likely as individuals without any known mental illness to be arrested for their behavior in similar situations. Furthermore, several other studies have even shown that roughly half of all persons with a mental illness have been arrested at least once in their lifetime (Solomon & Draine, 1995; Walsh & Bricourt, 2003). Although these statistics seem to further support the common belief among many citizens that mentally ill persons are dangerous criminals, research indicates that the mentally ill are more often arrested for nonviolent minor charges (Cuellar, Snowden, & Ewing, 2007). Not surprisingly, a considerable portion of individuals within the criminal justice population have a diagnosable mental illness. According to Ditton (1999), 7% of federal inmates, 16% of state inmates, and 16% of jail inmates have a mental illness. These percentages may be inflated because persons with mental illness tend to spend longer periods of time in custody than those without a mental illness. Perhaps the greatest indication of the brokenness of the system is the fact that there are more mentally ill persons in jails and prisons today than in public psychiatric hospitals (Lamb& Bachrach, 2001). In fact, according to the
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