Cycle of Imprisonment for Mentally Ill

Based on the findings of the report, the Consensus Project hopes congressional leaders will introduce legislation that will enable communities to adapt some of the recommendations of the report and perpetuate better understanding of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system, a problem some believe has been long overlooked.

"This is a complex problem that Congress should examine," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "If we are going to help our law enforcement officers reduce crime, we need to stop the revolving door of arrest, release, and re-arrest that is so common for mentally ill offenders."

Drawing Inspiration

A better understanding of the mentally ill is a good beginning, law enforcement officials say. But recognizing a need for collaboration between police and mental health professionals is the key.

"Awareness is always a good thing," Olson said. "There have been literally hundreds of deaths when a system that was supposed to protect them [the mentally ill] failed them. There has to be coordination and collaboration that involves law enforcement, mental health professionals, and the courts."

Meanwhile, Lane is dealing with his mental illness and seems to be winning. As late as 1999, he said almost killed himself during a bout with severe depression when he overdosed on prescribed medication. Today, as a survivor of a suicide attempt and an encounter with police who did not fully understand his condition, Lane hopes that some of his peers will learn and be empowered by his story. In July, he said he will begin a new job as director of consumer affairs for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

"I'm managing to manage the illness instead of having the illness mismanage me," Lane said. "I just want to get the word out and if people draw some kind of inspiration from my story, then I'm happy."

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