The connection between mental health and crime/law

by S.Abate on February 18, 2014 - 3:27pm

The issue I will be discussing revolves around mental health, and how crime and law is dismissed when it comes to this issue.

The first local article I have chosen speaks about a homeless, 41 year-old man from Quebec, named Alain Magloire, who suffered from mental illness for many years after attending a rave and taking ecstasy. He was reported attacking people with a hammer at which point 9-1-1 was called, and a police officer with a taser gun was requested to subdue Magloire. Unfortunately, before he got there, Magloire was shot by another police officer when he failed to put down the hammer after being commanded to. Magloire is the third homeless man to be shot by police in the last three years. The Quebec Coroner’s Office has announced a public inquiry for Magloire’s death. According to the press, this inquiry will include examining proper procedures, which deal with confrontation with people who suffer from mental illness. It has been noted that a taser, instead of a gun, could have saved Magloire’s life. However, the Montreal police only have 37 Tasers and only 150 officers are actually trained on how to use them. Coroner Dr. Pierre Brochu argues that police officers should have more Tasers and recommends more training for firearms, as well as making improvements on social services for psychiatric patients and people who suffer from mental health issues.

 My second article relates to this exact problem. Three teenagers were shot and killed by police officers in Toronto after they approached police with knives and scissors. Their families argue that “de-escalation” of the situation could have saved the teenagers’ lives. Instead of the officers pointing guns in their faces as an immediate reaction, screaming at them and commanding them to drop their weapons, they could be trained to use a different technique that involves talking them down in a civil manner. This suggestion was made by a five-person jury, they argue that officers should “maximize emphasis on verbal de-escalation techniques” in their training. They believe that their condition should be considered before their behaviour and that the police should explore other options and to try everything possible to refrain from shooting. Another suggestion is to have in-car cameras in police cars, and body armour that could protect an officer enough to be able to come into close contact with a person carrying a sharp weapon. The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services announced their authorization of expanding distribution of Tasers in Ontario, however the police themselves would have to pay the bill. Tasers cost about $1,500 each.

I came across a journal that speaks about the academic discipline of youth crime and how it is a “serious social problem”. I believe it’s relevant to the news I have summarized because they all bring light to the fact that mental health stigma is something that continues to grow and needs to be eliminated. All three articles I have found argue the same point, which is improving mental health treatment and focusing on a way to lead them into recovery, rather than aggressively handling them and the situation. The articles pinpoint on the fact that authorities are not trained to approach these kinds of people in a civil manner. They are not taught to try and sympathize and to speak to them like they’re human beings. Instead they are basically trained to see civilians as a threat, an enemy. I believe police officers should be trained in ways where using their gun is an absolute last resort. They should be skilled in other ways to take control of a confrontation, where they do not have to harm people. There needs to be more training in how to subdue a criminal, not how to kill them. I strongly believe there should be an entire theory class for police officers on people with mental disorders, and how to deal with them in a confrontation. They need to be introduced to how a brain with disabilities functions, in order to understand it and to know how to deal with it without the use of weapons. I believe the solution to help bring down crime is to widen resources for people seeking help with their mental issues, before they even get the chance to do something that is not “them”. The tragic and scary part of mental illness is that it is unpredictable, but there has to be a better understanding and sympathy for these people. Others are so quick to judge and do not see that there is reasoning behind illness, and that these people do not choose to be the way they are. It’s unfortunate that many people choose not to realize this.



- 1st article:

http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/alain-magloire-mourned-at-funeral-1.1675217


- 2nd article:
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/jury-recommends-de-escalation-in-police-confrontations-with-the-mentally-ill-1.1682205


- Journal: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30162707

Comments

I love what you are trying to get at here. I'm not sure what the differences are in law enforcement between the United States and Canada, so I will speak with reference to the states when I say that our current method of law enforcement focuses far too much on punishment and not at all on the rehabilitation of the individuals. I'm a psychology major planning to get my masters in social work and I chose this career because our prison system is so far gone in a direction that includes harsh police brutality and a complete disregard of the mental state of the inmates. People are simply written off far too easily. Most of the time, when someone commits a serious crime, there is a reason they are doing it. People don't just wake up one day and decide to kill someone, or rob a bank, or rape someone just for kicks. There's something much deeper happening with these individuals. I do not condone these acts in any way, but these people aren't going to get better by spending years in a cell washing laundry, they need HELP. Otherwise, they're just going to keep doing what got them there in the first place.

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