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Incarceration and Mental Illness

Mental health problems and their relation to prisoners and incarceration slowly became more evident in the last two decades. In an article on incarceration being ineffective in prisoners’ cases that involve mental health problems, Wagner (2000) emphasized how prisons cost more to build for the government and are less effective than mental health treatments. The author states that public demonization of the mentally ill is sourced in the government’s decision to transfer a significant part of mental health budgets to building more prisons. The demonstration of inadequate prosecution and comparison of incarceration cost and mental health-oriented housing programs made me realize that there would be fewer prisons now if the government implemented the mental health approach earlier.

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As now mental health issues are more openly and frequently discussed in society, it is time to reconsider the policy of mass incarceration and start a thorough examination of mental health input into crimes. In my opinion, if incarcerated people received help with their mental health needs before committing a crime, they possibly would have never entered the prison system. In the article, the author points that through programs that offer health for people with mental health issues, society gains back one functioning adult after completing the program (Wagner, 2000).

On the other hand, after entering the prison system, people struggle to fit back into society and commit crimes. I understand that in mass incarceration, the government mainly pursues a goal of achieving order in society and providing protection for the population. However, it seems that it is easier for government to massively incarcerate people than establish a system that could provide adequate help for people with mental health issues.


Wagner, P. (2000). Incarceration is not a solution to mental illness. Prison Policy Initiative. Web.

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