More people with mental health issues in jail than there are in hospitals.

by S.Abate on April 14, 2014 - 1:08pm

A mentally ill man from St John’s who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder was just released from jail after being charged with assault and threatening his father and step-mother. The man, Taylor Mitchell, 21, ran after them with a chainsaw and hit his father. The police were called and Mitchell was arrested and spent the night in jail and was denied bail. His lawyer, Joan Dawson, says that jail was the very last place he should’ve been because of his mental disorders. Mitchell’s mental issues peaked when he was 17 and has been in and out of Waterford Hospital seven times for a total of 200 days since then. This incident with his parents was his first encounter with the law and Dawson says this led him away from the actual help he needs. Dawson says there needs to be more appropriate facilities and housing for people like Mitchell, because the real issue is the complexity of his mental illness. Since Mitchell was denied bail, he wasn’t qualified for a specialized mental health court, and because of this he was living in jail instead of a community. Now that he’s been set free, he has no place to live, no job, and no money. Dawson attempted to find a facility in St John’s that would take him, but many places had no space or close to none. Dawson says that there seems to be more people with mental health issues in jail than there are in hospitals, which is a very serious problem. She thinks the only way these people will get proper help and housing is if we begin to demand it.



I find this a very interesting and important topic.

I find this topic very interesting and would like to offer my theory of change.

I totally agree with this, i don't believe that all prisoners should be going to a mental hospital instead of jail, but there are some cases that people need mental help, not just to sit in jail. The problem that most people see with it is that if someone does something to them, they want them to go to jail and be punished. For example when one of my neighbors went to jail for trying to beat up his little cousin, even all of his family wanted him to be punished, but they didn't realize the mental issues he had, he needed mental help instead of sitting in jail, because while he sat in jail he just went more and more crazy and he was eventually put into the psych ward. Concluding, i agree that there should be more proper places to put people who don't need to just sit in jail, but the people who need mental help. There should be mental testing that a person has to take in order to see if they should go to jail for their crime, or if it would serve them better to be treated in a mental hospital.

This post drew me in because I am a Criminal Justice major and this is a major issue we discuss in my classes. This is a great post on a specific issue on mental health problems and the issues the people affected by the health issues face. However, even though this is a great post with an interesting perspective on the matter, I think that you should include some of the attempts to address the problem, and how they are working or how they are not. This is also a special issue to me because my mothers’ maiden name is Dix. My ancestor happens to be the women famous for establishing mental health institutions, Dorothea Dix. Because of this, I do believe that there should be more institutions available for the mentally ill, and they should not be in jails because jails provide little or no help to the mentally ill. This jails can in fact make their conditions worse. This is a great post, but you can expand upon the narrower ideas included in the post.

Alright this one caught my eye as i'm the son of a police officer. I have to agree that this individual should not have been placed in jail as it serves as a way to worsen their condition. It could also make it so that they have no trust in the criminal justice system causing a whole other set of problems with their mental disability. With that said though I don't think that he would have been sent to this facility if it wasn't properly set to deal with him as prisons have physicians, psychiatrists, and others who are there to help those who are in the facility. Him being there is not the worse thing as they do have some personel on staff who can aid this individual for the duration of their sentence.

Mental illness is a difficult and sad topic to discuss. If someone has mental problems they become excluded from society and are seen as misfits. I agree with the article and believe that they should be given their own facilities. If someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, the first step should be to get them immediate help not to put them in prison with actually dangerous people. Jail would only make their condition much worse. if the actions they are committing are absurd then they should be given medical attention not just thrown in a cell to basically mentally kill themselves.

Mental illnesses are no joke. As much a person can go absolutely crazy and go on a major killing rant, they need help before anything. People with mental problems are already shunned from society because everyone thinks "Oh that guy is insane" or "Stay away from that kid, he has major issues." Explained in your summary it seemed since his outrages began while he was in high school, that there could've been neglect from his peers at school or his family. Most of the time thats how mental illnesses can begin. Even if jail time is deserved, the person needs help before anything so they can get their life on track. They can't exactly help their condition and if they were to make an absurd action, they shouldn't be penalized, they should be treated. I agree with Dawson's conclusions on how the only way mentally ill people will get the correct housing, is if we take charge and make the authorities realize what kind of treatment these ill individuals actually need.

I got drawn to this article because I have strong beliefs about criminals being treated as victims because they have what could be considered mental illnesses. I come from a family where the majority of my male family members are correctional officers in prisons, and this could be what influences my opinion. Some offenders do need to be hospitalized, however in my opinion, the majority of them need to be put into prison. It really frustrates me when people with mental health issues who can do things to be pro-active about their conditions do not help themselves, and then try to blame their illness. In the article Taylor Mitchell used his illness as an excuse, however bipolar disorder can be treated and kept in check with the proper medications. He has had issues his entire life and his parents as well as Taylor himself should have done something about this a long time ago. In my opinion, and meaning no offense to anyone else, criminals are criminals no matter what.

I came across a blog recently that really got a rise out of me, both because it was disturbing to me and because I want to go into law enforcement. The focus of the article is an autistic boy who was viciously and unnecessarily handcuffed by a police officer enacting what some may call police brutality. Jason, the autistic boy, felt that the police officer was threatening the safety of his mother and began to act out in an uncontrollable and slightly aggressive manner. His mother tried to explain to the police officer that Jason was autistic, but he didn’t care that he was autistic. The police officer used mace on Jason because he didn’t want to deal with the fact that he is autistic, or possibly because he didn’t know how to deal with it properly. This led me to think about how developmentally disabled people interact with the justice system. I found that 1% of physically disabled individuals and 4.2% of intellectually disabled individuals account for prisoners in our justice system (Weiss, 2013). Although there are many organizations that work with people with developmental disabilities, they usually work with those that are currently in society and forget about those that are already locked up.
After acknowledging that this minority group was being neglected I began to search for a non-profit organization that specializes in developmental disabilities and came across Lifetime Assistance. Lifetime Assistance works with a lot of different people, of many ages with developmental disabilities to get the most out of life. Emile Durkheim’s notion of Division of Labor is a perfect tool to think about the way in which Lifetime Assistance betters society. Division of Labor meaning the jobs and tasks of society are divided, or specialized, among the people so that they can assist society in the best way (Kivisto, 2011). Lifetime Assistance is a specialized organization that assists society by helping individuals who have developmental disabilities, and their families with every day activities, so that they can operate properly and fully in society.
In fact, Lifetime Assistance’s mission statement goes as “Our goal is to foster independence, self-reliance and respect for individuals with disabilities. Our vision is to help each person reach his or her full potential – and realize the opportunities of a lifetime.” This basically means that their goal is to help individuals with disabilities, and their families, make the most of their lives. Lifetime Assistance works to make interaction with others and functioning at community events easier for those that are disabled. They accomplish these goals though services, activities, and inputs.
Lifetime Assistance offers many services such as residential services, day services, service coordination, vocational services, recreational services, individualized service development, and family support services. As for activities, every month they send out a newsletter listing all the activities they were offering that month. There was a wide range of activities that they offered including sporting events, bowling, basketball, swimming, dances movies, picnics, concerts, trips to amusement parks, and bingo. Being able to provide these successful activities proves to me that Lifetime Assistance is very well up to date on specific knowledge needed to assist individuals with these disabilities.
Although these were only a few of the activities that are offer, they are only able to do so through their inputs. Inputs meaning resources like their employees and income. Lifetime Assistance currently employs 1,917 people who are offered courses to teach the employees how to deal with different types of people and situations. These courses allow employees to be better fit to do their jobs. The employees also must create schedules and rules for those involved in the programs. It also helps that Lifetime Assistance has a yearly income of $59,106,189 that they use to pay for the $58,250,900 for expenses (Guide Star, 2011). With the money, the people, and the plans that the people make doing what needs to be done to assist the ideas and plan of action toward their goal.
The theory of change for this non-profit is simply that if they offer these services to people with disabilities, and their families, then they will get the most out of their lives without getting into trouble. Without these services the individuals suffering from disabilities may not be able to function properly in society, or could experience a situation like Jason where they are incarcerated for something beyond their control and capacity. These individuals need assistance and guidance, not to be locked up with a bunch of criminals, or worse, with a bunch of other individuals who also didn’t receive the attention they needed to easily avoid the negative situation.
Lifetime Assistance is clearly knowledgeable about this specific issue in society and are more than capable of offering another program specifically for those already incarcerated because a large percentage of people locked up have a developmental disability and aren’t being treated for it. This is one of the main reasons that prisons and jails don’t change the people in them. You can’t change these people, you can only help them to understand and learn how to function properly in society. My only suggestion to this organization is to possibly make an outreach program to those in prison so we can slowly decrease the amount of people in prison, that don’t necessarily belong there. They could do so by offering the prisoners that have these disabilities that are close to their parole date a program on how to properly start over their life and function within it. With this program they would be less likely to not be found in the justice system again or at least anytime soon. I think this would be an extremely powerful move because Lifetime Assistance is already specialized in this topic they just need to use it in specific spaces. Other than that it seems that Lifetime Assistance is doing a very good job in their field of specialized labor.

Works Cited
Guide Star. (2011). Lifetime assistance incorporated. Retrieved from Guide Star website:
Kivisto, P. (2011). Li. Emile Durkheim: 6. on mechanical and organic solidarity. In Social theory roots and branches (pp. 38-42). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weiss, T. C. (2013, August 2). People with intellectual disabilities and the prison system. Retrieved from Disabled World website:

I have been reading a lot recently about the issue of mentally ill people and the place we are according to them in our society. I believe it is very interesting and concerning problem at the same time and I can see why you responded to this summary. From your comment I learned a lot about Lifetime Assistance since you described it so well. I also didn’t know about Emile Durkheim notion of Division of Labor and linking it to the non-profitable organization gave me a good sense of what it was and how we can apply it to this situation. Maybe I would suggest you to read this article: that talks about the problems we are facing in Canada with mental health and prisons. They an aspect you did not talk about which is isolations of mental ill prisoners.

I have always thought about the dangers of mixing mentally ill prisoners with other convicted felons. Their own danger is at risk because other inmates may target them because of this ‘weakness’. They can be singled out if they are acting in a way that other prisoners see as weird.

The court doesn’t really care about the person; they only see them as a criminal and nothing more. They couldn’t care less if they get beat up in jail. That’s what needs to be changed. These prisoners, mentally ill and not, should still be treated as humans. Yes they committed something awful, but that doesn’t make them any less human. Mentally ill felons should be treated more as patients than prisoners.

It seems to me that this project could be influential in a positive light, particularly when there should be access to mental disability management, and when police officers shouldn't do extreme stereotyping on individuals with disabilities. I have to agree on how people with mental disorders are being mistreated in jail than treated in hospitals, because as soon as one goes inside a cell, the police officers outrage them completely.

Actually, I can't completely understand why the justice system is not completely flexible in terms of assigning perpetrators with mental disorders into special courts. A more general response is, if there are special needs to be considered, the justice system should promote more education programs to deal with these needs, and lessen the punishment to be imposed on the individual. Still, there has to be a delicate balance between what is allowed and what the negative consequences of this criminal case are, because it’s totally unfair for a criminal to be given full release and less fines to pay than having to receive a consequence to be put on parole for 12 months.

What I've learned from this theory of change is that there at least exist certain programs designed to aid people with mental disorders in preventing criminal cases from arising as well as the major consequences of serving extreme punishment. In particular, it's when there are so many fears about the other criminals' philosophy on those with mental disorders. In one organization, Lifetime Associates, they put emphasis on the application of Emile Durkheim’s notion of Division of Labor, which states the divisions of jobs and tasks among people so that way they can help society in the best way possible. Essentially, Lifetime Associates is to assist people with mental disorders to have jobs and promote perception on helping society based on their personalities, circumstances and strengths. There are still some few obstacles to overcome in applying this social theory, particularly with the mood of the person in need as well as the availability. That's because depending on the quality of the disorder, people with it may start to resist treatment because it upsets their own being that they would refuse to change; it has to do with unpredictability and flexibility to changes in their own philosophy and thinking. As for availability, like any other service, there are often limits, particularly if the individual with a disorder is far away from the place where the service is offered. There is also the amount of room the association responsible for the program has, because as soon as it is full, a new service must be found, which is not necessarily the same as the one the person in need is seeking for.

There is an article I want to deliver: Toronto Star's "Law on mentally ill offenders under fire: 'Not Criminally Responsible' changes ignore science and research, experts say" by Amy Dempsey, published on April 19, 2014, details reviews about the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, where even with flexibility for having a criminal with a mental illness be declared not criminally responsible, there are still serious problems with accessibility for services that are supposed to help him or her. In particular, it's when a person with a mental illness refuses treatment and commits a crime, as well as how long it takes for a psychiatrist to call in the individual with the disorder and commence an intervention plan. The thing about this article is, there must be an urge to change on how people with mental illnesses are given the opportunities to go through treatment services.

I want to start by saying that there are worse things in life than spending one night in jail for a severe offense. In extreme cases, sometimes hard decisions need to be made, and I would rather this man be locked up until help can be given than to let him roam around and possibly hurt someone or himself. That being said, I think the way our prison system is run is extremely unproductive. I'm not sure how it is in Canada, but here in the U.S., there is very little focus in rehabilitating the people who are sent there. I do not think people commit crimes because they are "bad people who deserve to be punished". Most of the time, there is a reason people are making these decisions. A man who murders needs help. If we focus more on helping these people, it is possible that we could extend our society in ways we never thought we could by bringing a fresh perspective that we are currently keeping locked away.

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