Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.
Our country is in a sad state of affairs when over half of our state jails are occupied by inmates with psychological disorders. Consider the following, a schizophrenic prisoner staying in the famously overcrowded Maricopa County Jail, irrationally believes the guards are plotting against them. They become afraid when they are around the guards which cause instability in the unit. The guards are trained to maintain stability in the unit, so they must address the situation. This makes the inmate more fearful and they physically lash out at the guards.
This leads to a forceful restraint of the prisoner who already thinks the guards are out for them. They are then placed in solitary confinement which is proven to exacerbate mental disorders. This vicious cycle continues until the inmate serves his sentence, and then he is tossed onto the streets in a worse mental state than he entered.
The only way to stop this cycle is for a Phoenix Criminal Attorney to advocate on behalf of the individual and request a not guilty by reasons of insanity plea. To better understand this complex issue, you must know the requirements of reaching such a verdict, the alternative sentence, and how this helps people avoid the prison system in the future.
The primary stipulation to obtain a not guilty by reasons of insanity plea is that the defendant does not understand the consequences of their actions. Essentially, some mentally ill people do not understand that what they are doing is wrong, or cannot comprehend the gravity of the situation and is not deterred by a threat of punishment.
For example, a 30-year-old man who has an I.Q. of 59, wanders away from his caregiver and enters a grocery store. He sees his favorite chips and opens them and when he is confronted by the store manager he gets upset with him trying to steal his favorite treat and he punches him. This person is not acting in malice; they simply didn’t understand that what they were doing was wrong.
After a not guilty by reasons of insanity verdict is made, the court will sentence the individual to serve time in a psychiatric institution where they will hopefully receive better treatment than in prison. These sentences can last for an undetermined length of time that mostly hinges on the patient’s progress with psychiatrists who primarily force pills down their throat to sedate them in times of emergency.
This heavy sedation does keep patients calm, but when they are released many people go off their meds and wind up in the same predicament as before. To alleviate this concern, we must invest in the mental health field, and not simply build more prisons. Each year the judicial system spends $5 billion on mental health treatment for people behind bars.
This treatment has proven to be effective for a large portion of the population who lived in psychiatric hospitals. One study found that 33% of inmates in psychiatric institutions wound up back in court, compared to the extremely high 76.6% recidivism rate of state prisons.