A study conducted in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics listed 64 percent of local jail inmates as having symptoms of moderate to serious mental illness, and while there have been steps taken by legislation to lower this rate, the mental health system in the United States still suffers. Looking at the events in the last year coupled with many of the statistics I found online caused me to change my white paper topic to focus on the state of mental health in the United States.

There are a few elements to this topic that I am looking to uncover with my white paper. First, I would like to look at the economical ramifications of placing people in jail rather than getting them proper mental health care. According to CBS News and “a report by the organization, “The Price of Prison”…the cost of incarcerating one inmate in Fiscal 2010 was $31,307 per year. “In states like Connecticut, Washing state, New York, it’s anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000.” (CBS News). By contrast, in an article written in 2006 published by the American Journal of Psychiatry, the average monthly cost of Perphenazine, a drug commonly used to treat Schizophrenia, was $960, adding to an average annual cost of $11,520 (Freedman).  While the cost of treatment is still high, there is nearly a $20,000 difference between the two.

I would also like to look at the rates of executions that have occurred with mentally ill patients, and how the laws governing this have changed over time. An article written by the American Civil Liberties Union listed several court cases that I intend on researching, including Ford v. Wainwright in 1986, Atkins v. Virginia in 2002, and Panetti v. Quarterman in 2007 (ACLU).  All of these cases revolve around mental illness and execution in the United States, so I believe they will be helpful to look at in terms of the evolution of legislation regarding the issue. Again, I plan on examining this both from a legislation standpoint as well as an economical standpoint. In an article posted by Amnesty International in 2008, they quoted the estimated cost of a death penalty case in the United States to be around $1.26 million (Amnesty International). This is a significant cost, and one that I believe will be particularly useful in building a case for my white paper.

Lastly, I would like to look at the growing rate and awareness of mental health issues in the United States, and how it is becoming more and more relevant to the average person in America. In the past year, there have been several tragedies that have taken place because of the lack of a proper mental health system. While the issue of gun control often takes hold after these tragedies, it is actually the case of the mental health system that should take precedent. According to a release published by the National Institute of Mental Health, around 5 % of all Americans have a serious mental illness, with 8% of 18-25 year olds contributing to that number (NIMH). This means that my generation should begin taking notice and actively changing to reduce the risk of improper care. I plan on reading information from a variety of sources, both published by national institutes as well as by family members or individuals suffering from mental health illness to try and find a better way for the U.S. to take charge of its mental health system.


“Death Penalty Cost.” Amnesty International USA. Www.amnestyusa.org, 1 July 2008. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.

Fitzpatrick, Michael. “Department of Justice Study: Mental Illness of Prison Inmates Worse

Than Past Estimates.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org, 6 Sept. 2006. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

Freedman, R., W. T. Carpenter, J. M. Davis, H. H. Goldman, C. A. Tamminga, and M. Thomas.

“The Costs of Drugs for Schizophrenia.” American Journal of Psychiatry 163.12 (2006):2029-031. The American Journal of Psychiatry Online. Ajp.psychiatryonline.org, 1 Dec.2006. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

“Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness Among U.S. Adults by Age, Sex, and Race.” National

Institute of Mental Health. NIMH, 2008. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.

“The Cost of a Nation of Incarceration.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 22 Apr. 2012. Web. 13 Apr.2013.

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