Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mentally Ill Inmates Deserve Treatment

Photo by: Deviant Art
County sheriffs in Springfield Ill. are supporting legislation to address a build up of jail inmates waiting to be transferred to state psychiatric facilities.  Under this legislative proposal, sheriffs would have the authority to take inmates with mental illnesses to the nearest treatment facility after 10 days in jail.  Furthermore, the bill requires the facility to admit the defendant.
According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, inmates who are unfit to stand trial due to a mental illness can sometimes return to court to stand trial after treatment.  However, according to the Illinois Sheriffs' Association, these inmates sometimes wait months in jail before they can get into a state facility for court-ordered treatment.

Thomas Meece is just one of many who suffered from a mental illness and was unable to receive treatment.  In McLean County, Meece was determined unfit to stand trial for the various charges of beating and murdering his daughter.  He waited in jail for two months before a spot opened in Springfield's McFarland Mental Health Center.  It wasn’t until later that he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was therefore sent for long-term treatment for his mental illness.

Greg Sullivan, executive director of the sheriffs' association, said that nearly 90 inmates have been waiting over three months to be transferred to a mental health center.

"The last place these defendants need to be is in a county jail.  They need to be in a treatment facility that has the proper staff and resources," Sullivan said.

Not only is this unhealthy for those suffering with the mental illness, but it could create a potentially unsafe environment for the other inmates as well.  A mental illness is not something that will eventually go away on its own.  Mental illnesses need to be treated and taken seriously in today’s society.  A jail sentence doesn't mean those who suffer from mental illnesses are less deserving of receiving treatment.  

-Jordan Gutterman         

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