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June 23, 2005

Prison Houses the Mentally Ill

Prisons often end up being were the mentally ill are housed due to the fact that many people do not receive the help they need. Little is often done to help the mentally ill until it is too late. New Jersey has a surprisingly large number of people with mental disorders in their prisons. Approximately 60% of those in its state prisons are mentally ill. About 80% of those who are mentally ill were undiagnosed before they were put in jail.

One example of this system is Sam Manzie "In 1997, 15-year-old Sam Manzie killed an 11-year-old boy who was selling candy for a school fund-raiser. Just three days earlier, Sam's parents had asked an Ocean County judge to admit him for treatment. The judge refused" (Davis, 2005).

This problem is only going to gradually increase until the problem is solved by the state. But when that is going to happen and how is still under speculation. "Acting Gov. Codey has proposed adding $40 million for mental health initiatives. The funds would expand staff at mental health screening centers, clear waiting lists for psychiatric services and create programs that provide alternatives to jail for people with mental illness, he says. Codey also talks of establishing a $200 million housing trust fund, using leftover bond proceeds, that would create 10,000 permanent housing units over the next 10 years for the mentally ill" (Davis, 2005).

Whether such an initiative would help is unknown, but it is obvious that something must be done to help the state's mentally ill. New Jersey does not have any aid to help move those in jail with mental illness into treatment programs instead. Many of those who are released from jail eventually return to the prison system because they are unable to receive the treatment they need. They are often poor and do not have the medical coverage needed to get help. Even those with health insurance often find that it does not cover the services that they need.

To go to the New Jersey Department of Correction's home page go to:
http://www.state.nj.us/corrections/index.shtml

The source of this article was the North Jersey Media Group.

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