Perceptions of Defendants with Mental Illness
Group: Mississippi Statistical Analysis Center
Today, it is estimated that the criminal justice system incarcerates in excess of 1.5 million individuals in state and federal prisons. Some conservative and dated studies report that as many as one quarter of one million inmates confined to correctional institutions suffer from varying degrees of mental illness. In light of this situation, which shows no immediate signs of abatement, it becomes imperative to better understand how the contemporary criminal justice system responds to its broadened public welfare mandate. To accomplish this objective, the Mississippi Statistical Analysis Center undertook an exploratory research initiative focused on assessing the beliefs, perceptions and attitudes of courtroom participants regarding defendants with mental illness. Specifically, the target population for the survey consisted of judges, prosecutors and public defenders within the state. This particular group was of interest given their significant role not only in the process of adjudication, but also in determining current and future public risk, as well as appropriate methods of treatment and / or confinement. This document reports the results of the study and identifies policy implications, as well as the need for additional attention regarding the issue.
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