Book Review: Mentally Ill People and the Criminal Justice System

Date01 September 2005
Published date01 September 2005
Subject MatterArticles
10.1177/0734016805282751Criminal Justice ReviewBook Review Essays
Mentally Ill People and
the Criminal Justice System
Daniel W. Phillips, III
Correctional Mental Health Handbook, by Thomas J. Fagan and Robert K. Ax (Eds.). Thou-
sand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003, pp. xvi, 353.
The Evolution of Mental Health Law, by Lynda E. Frost and Richard J. Bonnie (Eds.). Wash-
ington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001, pp. xiv, 336.
Integrated Treatment for Dual Disorders: A Guide to Effective Practice, by Kim T. Mueser,
Douglas L. Noordsy,Robert E. Drake, and Lindy Fox. New York:Guilford, 2003, pp. xxiv, 470.
Because of the revolving nature of incarceration and release back into the community,
incarceration presents an opportunity for the state to treat mentally ill offenders while con-
fined. Many offenders within the criminal justice system are individuals whose main prob-
lem is mental illness, not serious criminal behavior. Mentally ill offenders are frequently
arrested by police officers on minor charges (a “mercyarrest”) to remove them from the street
and place them in jail where they will receive food and shelter.In the past, psychiatric hospi-
tals would have housed the mentally ill, but because of a reduction in psychiatric hospital
beds, jails now serve as a substitute for inpatient treatment (Teplin & Pruett, 1992). Regard-
less of the reasons for entering the criminal justice system, courts mandate that the govern-
ment treat serious medical conditions of those incarcerated, including mentally ill detainees,
and that the government provide help for those who cannot take care of themselves.
The books in this article detail how the criminal justice system treats mentally ill offenders
while they are in custody and a wealth of information about specific treatments. Although
legal and correctional workers are required to deal with mental illness, it can be difficultto do
so in an adversarial system that has become increasingly punishment oriented. Criminal
defendants and convicts may strategically claim to be mentally ill in an attempt to evade or at
least reduce their punishment. This places correctional officials in the position of having to
decide whether an inmate is faking an illness.
These books deal with a variety of subtopics concerning the mentally ill in the criminal
justice system: how the law has evolved to deal with persons with mental illness since the
1970s (Frost & Bonnie); a practical guide of current mental health and substance abuse thera-
pies, including one chapter on implementing treatment in a correctional setting (Mueser,
Noordsy, Drake, & Fox,2003); and a thorough discussion of how to design and deliver men-
tal health treatment in correctional environments (Fagan & Ax). Although the Mueser et al.
text was written by four authors and reads like a treatment manual complete with a workbook,
the other two books were edited and have been written by nearly three dozen authors. Some
Criminal Justice Review
Volume 30 Number 2
September 2005 215-219
© 2005 Georgia State University
Research Foundation, Inc.
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