Mental health and Criminal Justice

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Mental Health

Scribe: Samuel Otis



Mental health and the criminal justice system crosses paths daily. However, when the criminal is a brown or Black person he disappears forever. Recently a case in Calhoun County Mississippi came to fore. It is a case about a young White inmate who attacked his father’s girlfriend when he was 16 years old.

Tyler Haire, did not kill his victim, but she suffered Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome after having to have part of her colon removed. He is serving a seven year sentence for stabbing Shelia Hughes, and for nearly 3 1/2 years sat in a country jail cell awaiting a bed at the State Hospital at Whitfield. The hospital only have 16 beds for pre-trail inmates –the sheriff of Calhoun County says there is a problem with the system.

Sheriff Greg Pollan made clear, "Through my 30+ year career I have had my fair share of those that you just can't let go of. He continued, "One case that will stick with me long after my career is over is the case of Tyler Haire." And, he is correct in his assessment.

Haire was imprisoned for 1266 days before he had a mental assessment. The problem is not limited to Mississippi, around the country you will find the same thing in every country in every state in the nation. Haire is due to be released in late 2018.

My issue is, it takes a white family being affected to bring attention to a problem that has had an impact on millions of families.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, In a mental health crisis, people are more likely to encounter police than get medical help. As a result, 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails each year. Nearly 15% of men and 30% of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition.”

Many times jailing people without treatment forces would be patients to a much worse place. Their health condition is often worsened by incarceration and theses same faux patients never receive needed health help even after release. The burdens of jailing sick people are well known. Minorities with mental illness are treated as criminals and it was allowed to persist due to the throw away status of African Americans, new immigrants in America.

The poison of allowing minorities the suffer through what is clearly wrong, positions everyone else to be mistreated as well. This highlights just one problem with the criminal justice system, there are many.

Examples of people what have been executed with mental health issues. John Ferguson, suffered severe mental illness despite the courts being aware Judge David Glant rejected a request to halt his execution. Garry Allen and Edwin L. Turner were all put the death by the government with documented mental illnesses.

In 2017 laws have begun to shift to retard the flow of mentally ill people and people that suffer from substance abuse being treated as criminals. Its the right thing to do.

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