The plight of individuals suffering from disabilities has increasingly become the topic of reform conversation as Americans have sought to create a more equal and opportunistic society. While the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 tried addressed this concern, progress for those suffering from mental disabilities lags behind, preferring to be covered up and silenced by society. Stigmas surrounding mental illness coupled with a general lack of knowledge exacerbate the issue. In particular, reform concerning mental illness within the criminal justice system falls drastically short of providing “clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discriminations against individuals with disabilities” as written in the Disability Act of 1990.[i]
A mix of legal, financial and emotional factors create major barriers to the mentally ill receiving equal treatment within our society. I begin by examining the causes of the current system; from old issues, like deinstitutionalization in the 1960s to persisting issues we see today, like stigmas about mental health. I then propose a two part solution for the United States Congress: how to prevent the mentally ill from entering the criminal justice system in the first place and how to provide care and rehabilitation for those that do end up in the system. Recent tragedies in our nation’s history have brought the issue of mental health care into the spotlight, and it is time we took a hard look at the real solutions to this challenge.
To read more about the causes and solutions to the growing rate of mentally ill in the criminal justice system, go to the following link: