Quote: “America’s prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill. Mass incarceration has been largely fueled by misguided drug policy and excessive sentencing, but the internment of hundreds of thousands of poor and mentally ill people has been a driving force in achieving our record levels of imprisonment. It’s created unprecedented problems” (Stevenson, 2015, p. 186).
The above-mentioned quote aptly captures the dilemma of American prisons. The jails around the country are filled with people who cannot afford to pay their bail money, or by the ones who commit crimes driven by addiction or mental health problems. Additionally, numerous get incarcerated for minor violations such as shoplifting or driving with an expired license, and end up serving longer sentences due to their inability to pay the court-mandated fines. The quotation stands out to me because it brings to light the misguided justice system that is also driven by racial prejudice. A crime committed by people of color is sentenced differently from the same crime if committed by a white American. A black American found in possession of a drug would be sentenced to jail time rather than the privilege of a rehabilitation center, which is most often an option for the White community. Similarly, the opportunity of a psych evaluation is not equitably available for all – rather the mental health concerns of many offenders are not taken into account while sentencing them. The justice system is more intent on excessive sentencing. While the rate of violent crimes has gone down nearly 50% and property crimes have declined by 40%, the jail population has increased from 224,000 to 731,000 in the past three decades. Consequently, inmates spend extended time in jail while awaiting trial (Williams, 2015). The mental health concerns addressed in this quote are quite important to consider. Children from foster care often undergo severe trauma and unhealthy living conditions lead to behavioral delinquency. When such young adults are sentenced to jail time instead of getting the help that they require, they often become hardened criminals. These issues are attributed to a flawed justice system. A reform is, therefore, quite necessary to ensure that people get the help they need through mental health interventions and support at rehab centers, rather than overcrowding the jails over minor offenses.
Stevenson, B. (2015). Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption. Scribe Publications.
Williams, T. (2015, February 11). Jails Have Become Warehouses for the Poor, Ill and Addicted, a Report Says. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/11/us/jails-have-become-warehouses-for-the-poor-ill-and-addicted-a-report-says.html