40% of people who are incarcerated have a mental health diagnosis. 75% have a substance abuse diagnosis. (Guest Lecturer)
This statistic is flooring. A good portion of the population in prison need psychiatric help that would aide them in reformation. There is a huge debate right now that the prison system in America is slowly replacing that of mental health institutions (with evidence shown in distribution of funding) and this percentage of people are not getting the help they need to survive.
During the Reagan and Bush administrations, there were stiffer sentences for crack cocaine (a drug typically found in poor neighborhoods) than sentences for cocaine were. (Race to Incarcerate, 44)
Crack in the 1980’s was cheaper to produce than cocaine and was often found in poor neighborhoods. Crack received very negative media attention and the government set very harsh laws in comparison to those for cocaine, which directly impacted the poor and minority groups.
“For a surprisingly number of prisoners, their time on the outside may be briefed. The national average of repeat visit is 50%. We’re spending 80 billion dollars (on prison industry) and failing half the time.” (John Oliver Video)
For the amount of money we spend on the prison industry, effective rehabilitation is not occurring and these statistics show it. People are continually ending back up in jail because re-entry is difficult and reformation of people in jail was not completed properly.
“Most of the crimes committed by those who are mentally ill are non-violent crimes like property damage, petty theft, or trespassing.” (Frontline)
There is a wide misconception that those with severe mental illness are violent. As shown by this statement, many are not violent. According to the Frontline document, many psychiatric hospitals shut down. The people who left those hospitals weren’t mentally health, and end up taking to the streets and getting wrapped up in small crimes like these to help care for themselves. They then get sent to jail and aren’t receiving the help they need.
“There are blocks in Brooklyn, NY and other places, where the government is spending $1 million a year. The money is not being spend on drug treatment programs. It’s not being spend on pre-natal care or health care. It’s not being spend on education or job training, it’s being spent on imprisonment” (Prison Town, pg 15)
This should be the biggest eye opener of all. So much money is being spent on incarceration that there is little funding left for the services that keep people out of prison in the first place.