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What’s the connection between mental illness and crime?

On Behalf of | May 26, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Stigma and misunderstanding about mental health issues prevent people from getting the care that they need to address their personal issues. A surprising number of people think that mental health issues cause criminal behavior.

The statistical analysis of criminal convictions shows that the average person with mental health is no more likely than a member of the general population to commit a criminal act. However, those with certain, particularly destabilizing disorders, like schizoaffective conditions, may have an elevated risk for violent criminal activity when compared with the general public.

Otherwise, those with serious mental health issues are often more vulnerable to criminal activity by others rather than the perpetrators of crimes. Still, mental health does play a role in a noteworthy number of criminal cases every year. How many people in state custody have known mental health issues?

Many people in state custody need mental health support

According to data gathered by the Prison Policy Project, approximately 37% of the people in state and federal prisons already have a diagnosis with a mental health disorder. That figure increases to 44% of the inmates in locally-run jails.

The prison system does a poor job of supporting those people and may even cause mental health issues in those who had no prior diagnosis. Two-thirds of inmates in federal facilities say they have no access whatsoever to mental health care services.

One in four inmates will experience some kind of serious psychological distress while in state custody, and most of them will not get the help they need in the moment or afterward. The pressure of living in state custody can lead to anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder in the inmates.

How can this information help you after an arrest?

The judge or jury presiding over your criminal case will not likely give you a free pass for a criminal offense simply because you have a significant mental health diagnosis. Still, acknowledging the factors that contributed to your charges can put you in a better position to defend against them later.

Securing a diagnosis and proactively entering treatment can help you avoid future mistakes that could lead to arrest and criminal charges. It could also help you when the time comes for your day in court.

Understanding the connection between criminal charges and mental health issues will make it easier for you to respond after an arrest.