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Mental Health Concerns in the Administration of Criminal Justice

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The issue of mental health in our criminal justice system is severely under-represented. We have individuals both taking advantage of and getting lost in the system which gives neither the help they need. The issue of misdiagnosing is where the problem begins; we lack the research we need to complement the diagnosing methods of physicians. Stigma concerning individuals with intellectual disabilities, especially offenders, is also causing conflict in putting them through the system. Minority standing is, of course, the underlying factor in all of this, considering the majority of individuals with mental disabilities in the criminal justice system are part of a minority group.

The plea of temporary insanity (if successful) can prove little to no consequences from the criminal justice system, yet rarely is it truly insanity that drives these offenders to offend. People that are part of the majority, wealthy and white that have the resources to put together a team of excellent lawyers are more likely to use this defence than those that are obviously actually psychotic. The problem with this is it leaves criminals who only claimed insanity, out of the streets to re-offend. Many legitimate psychotic individuals do not even know what is best for them, yet they still have to decide their own fate and many refuse to allow their lawyer to mount an insanity case for them. As a result, they get stuck in the system without proper services to give them the assistance they need that would be provided in mental health facilities. This is one of the many issues with pleas such as these; the wrong people use them and the right people don’t know how to use them and aren’t receiving aid on their behalf.



The stigma we place upon individuals with mental disorders leads many people to brush them under the rug so to speak, because what can they contribute to society? What will it hurt me to accidently put them in jail instead of a mental health facility? It hurts them, it hurts their families and it hurts the community around them when mentally disabled offenders don’t get the treatment they need to not offend again. Jail is not the equivalent of therapy or medication, which is the only thing proven to keep these offenders from re-offending.


In order to stop this problem we need to conduct more research, continue to make better and more assistance programs available to minority groups and change the way people with mental disabilities are tried. Research will make diagnosing more accurate and valid, programs will prevent minorities from ending up in the criminal justice system to begin with and could also contribute to getting rid of prejudicial bias within the system. Changing the way people with Intellectual disabilities are tried is the most important way to stop them from being improperly put in the general jail population. If they cannot make proper judgements they should not and can not make proper decisions on these judgements and should not be forced to.

To close, here are a few last words about mental illness:

1. So how do we fix this problem besides more research and better methods for diagnosis?

2. How much of a factor is race, sex and/or social status in deciding where/how an offender is sentenced?

3. Do you know someone with a mental disability who has had to go through the criminal justice system? How did it work out for them?




Final Blog post how race and social class tie into mandatory minimum setencing


Mandatory minimum sentence is a Crisis that has and is affecting a large amount of people. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws set minimum sentences for offenders to serve regardless of the circumstances giving judges no discretion or leniency to lower the sentence. Majority of the mandatory minimum sentences apply to manufacturing, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute of drugs as well as for various other charges. A very well known form of mandatory minimum sentencing comes from the three strikes law.Similarly to mandatory minimum sentencing, sadly the judge is not allowed to shorten the sentence no matter how small the third crime is with the three strike law.

The main reason why mandatory minimum came into existence was due to the War on Drugs occurring in the 70’s and 80’s. A swarm of drug presence came to the U.S. after events like Woodstock in the 1960’s and when soldiers returned home from Vietnam addicted to heroin and various other drugs. This caused President Nixon to launch a campaign dedicated to the use of illicit drugs. This all resulted in the passage of sentencing reform act of 1984 that ultimately led to the sentencing commission being created to set sentencing guidelines. The intentions of the commission were good but they did not take into consideration what would work best for crime control and the offenders circumstances.


In 2011 Hispanic accounted for 38.3% of offenders convicted with a mandatory minimum sentence, African Americans had 31.5%, Whites had 27.4%, and other races composed of 2.7%. Mandatory minimum had a large amount of disparities for it’s sentencing. For example, the disparity between crack and powder cocaine was at 1-100 ratio. People of color particularly African Americans and people from the lower class were the individuals purchasing crack because it was cheap while primarily white and upper class were purchasing powder cocaine which was the same thing but not condensed. With this being said, lower class and people of color occupied majority of prison institutions due to these reasons.

A few questions that came to mind while doing research on mandatory minimum sentence were, what is a better method of deterrence compared to mandatory minimum sentencing? Was mandatory minimum sentencing was made to help the society or to hurt it? Should judges have more input to cases regarding mandatory minimum? What adjustments could have been made to the mandatory minimum law to have made it successful as time progressed. And should rehabilitation be the primary focus for drug offenders rather than retributive punishment?

In conclusion, whether or not mandatory minimum sentencing law is effective or not is an ongoing debate with supportive and opposing feeling towards it. In my opinion the focus should be put more so towards violent offenders that actual pose a threat to society rather than drug dealers and users who need treatment rather than hard prison time. It is sad that in today’s day and time more money goes into the prison institution rather than the education system. If the money used to fund prisons was put towards schools and making them a place for all people then perhaps more people would not resort to selling and using drugs and could potentially use the school as a resource from staying out of trouble.


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