Criminal Defense and Mental Illness

The insanity defense has been a staple of crime novels, television shows, and Hollywood movies for years. Yet its fictional portray may be in stark contrast to reality. According to a recent study, the treatment received by many mentally ill inmates in America’s prisons is woefully inadequate, and according to some advocates, tantamount to torture.

The report relied on national data to profile the number of mentally ill prisoners in state correctional facilities and variations in applicable state laws and treatments afforded such inmates. In the aggregate, the report indicates a staggering disparity: State prisons and county jails contain ten times the number of individuals with mentally illnesses than state mental hospitals. In numbers that translates into 356,268 mentally ill prisoners, compared to around 35,000 mentally ill hospital patients.

Readers know that a criminal defense attorney may investigate police records, witnesses and many other potential avenues for building a strong defense. However, However, an experienced attorney may also act as an advocate in other ways. One way an attorney can demonstrate his or her commitment to clients is by investigating the circumstances that may have led to the arrest.

In the case of mental illness, an attorney may work with experts to establish what treatment may best help an individual’s recovery and ability to avoid similar situations in the future. By proving to prosecutors and the court that promising treatments are available, an accused may be able to avoid the neglect and hopelessness facing too many of the mentally ill prisoners accounted for in the study.

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