A while ago on TV (BBC I believe), there was a programme called 'Bedlam Behind Bars'.
It looked into whether there is enough being done to support prisoners with mental health issues in America.
A lot of people will have the view that prisoners deserve everything they get, and I understand that sometimes people use mental illness as an excuse to commit crimes. It's not an excuse by any means, but if a prisoner had a physical illness, they'd be helped, so is this the case with mental illness too?
There is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues, and some people still do not believe it exists... but the truth is, it does.
Whether you believe prisoners get things too easy, there's no denying that any illness needs to be treated whether that be physical or mental.
The documentary brought some seriously worrying scenarios to light, that was said to be common practice throughout the states.
Some details in the next paragraph you may be sensitive too...
The documentary visited a couple of prisons. However, Cook County Department of Corrections held the highest percentage of prisoners with mental health issues. Many sufferers were tied up in 4 point restraints, and some have even died from being left there through dehydration. One clip was shown of a psychiatric nurse striking a prisoner who was experiencing a schizophrenic episode. One prisoner was being so badly, his heat stopped due to his chest being compressed, and passed away. Five years later, and there was no punishment for his killers, but they were still on paid leave pending investigation. Almost 100 people with mental health issues have died from abuse or neglect since 2003.
During a short interview with the owner of one of the prisons, he said that mental health was being criminalised.
The programme highlighted some serious issues. It came to the conclusion that the mental health illness sufferers who could not access the treatment they needed, would end up in prison. It even went as far as to say prisons have become asylums.
So, this programme highlighted many problems in the American criminal justice system. Whether you believe criminals get everything they deserve or not, this is a breech of human rights.
How common is this throughout the states? And is this the case for the UK criminal justice system too?
It's never possible to tell whether documentaries are showing a balanced view. This one seemed to show so many negatives, and not one positive. I believe this was to highlight the situations that should not happen.
Many people will say it was biased, but I believe it was to demonstrate the desperate need for a complete overhaul of the mental health system in America.
It was a hard watch, and I'm sure this is NOT ALWAYS the case 100% of the time, but it was shocking that people with mental health issues are still treated like animals.
It needs to change!
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