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Mentally Ill Offenders Paper

The last ten years have been the worst in the US regarding mass shootings, and they have elicited debates regarding the connection between criminality and mental illness. The renewed media attention and focus on the significance of mental health after the deadly mass shootings is a positive development; the relationship between criminality and mental illness is conflated. The masses believe that mentally ill individuals are more likely to commit acts of aggression and violence, and this perception has been cultivated by the portrayals of criminals in the media as crazy people. But data from research suggests otherwise as mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violent crime instead of perpetrators. It is a form of implicit bias that extends to all aspects of life, such as the criminal justice system, which points to the need for a deeper analysis of criminality and psychiatric illness.

Crime is never evidence of a mental disorder but a misconception that all criminals are sick, mainly those that commit serious or senseless crimes like murder. The facets governing mental illness and crime should be kept distinct. Crime is regarded as the violation of laws of the land, while mental disorder refers to any behavior marked by some degree of lack of the general capacity for rationality or accompanying dysfunction. The behavior elicited by mentally ill individuals might be criminal or not, and they may be legally responsible or not for the behavior that the mental disorder produces. On the other hand, criminal behavior is highly rational, differentiating it from mentally ill individuals. The distinction does not mean that mentally ill people are innocent; it demonstrates that some crimes result from mental disorders, but considering all crimes as a manifestation of the disorder beats logic (Markowitz, 2011). It fails to consider all the sensible boundaries to the idea of mental disorder and enhances commonly acknowledged notions regarding accountability and morality. These biases have blocked any efforts to conduct research and estimate the criminal behavior of individuals with mental illness. It is estimated that people who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to commit crimes than mentally ill individuals, but these crimes are still blamed on mental illness.

Society views behaviors and conduct problems as symptoms of a psychological disorder, and the perception is evident in the criminal justice system whereby the high incidences of mental illnesses have resulted from false labeling of criminals of suffering from a disorder. The figures collected from the prisons are not based on psychiatric evaluations but based on social factors. One of the disorders found in prisons is Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), and it is used to paint offenders as victims of mental illness (Ghiasi et al., 2020). The common symptoms for ASPD are primarily consistent and serious antisocial behaviors, but they do not include affective or cognitive psychopathology. The diagnostic criteria mean that the condition will be found in many offenders, but it does not offer a sound basis per se to consider it a disorder. It ignores vital information that shows that a prison environment is very stressful, especially in ways that might make an individual to develop mental disorders. Incarcerated offenders lack the normal range of stimuli ranging from social support, love, sexual relationships, and they are distanced from their familial environment, while the worst is the constant fear for their life. The offender’s experiences are similar to patients suffering from depression, whereby they pull away from other people primarily because of mental stresses, but these episodes are not extreme (Shipley &Tempelmeyer, 2012).

The misdiagnosis of offenders with disorders does not eliminate the fact that there is a massive group of offenders whose conditions increase the risk of committing a crime. When patients with mental illnesses fail to take their treatment, they are more likely to experience illusions or have long-lasting paranoia. It means that patients suffering from the diseases must take their medication to reduce the likelihood of committing a crime in the community or engaging in aggressive behavior in prisons. According to Ghiasi et al. (2020), drug use is closely associated with criminal behavior compared to mental disorders. People who abuse drugs with or without mental illnesses are more likely to become criminals. However, individuals with mental illness have a higher likelihood of abusing drugs and alcohol than those without mental disorders. Evidence shows that drug use accounts for most criminal cases, but criminal behavior might be more prevalent among individuals with mental illness because they are more likely to abuse drugs. The issue is worse for individuals who have personality disorders, whereby they are at a greater risk of criminal behavior if they were to use illegal drugs. It shows that mentally ill people are less likely to be offenders without drugs, which is a significant factor that the justice system should consider.

In conclusion, an analysis of mentally ill offenders proves that they are misjudged by society as criminals while they are victims, but the abuse of drugs has shown that mentally ill abusers are more likely to commit crimes. The perception that most of the offenders are mentally ill is wrong, and the criteria used to measure mental disorders in prisons are flawed as they do not disregard the psychological aspects and the environment, which has a massive effect on their mental capacity. But the abuse of drugs is common among mentally ill individuals is higher than ordinary people and due to the relationship between drugs and crime, more mentally ill are more likely to be arrested as criminals. The finding is excellent, but it does not mean that all substance use crimes involve mentally ill people.


Ghiasi, N., Azhar, Y., & Singh, J. (2020). Psychiatric illness and criminality. StatPearls.

Markowitz, F. E. (2011). Mental illness, crime, and violence: Risk, context, and social control. Aggression and violent behavior, 16(1), 36-44.

Shipley, S. L., & Tempelmeyer, T. C. (2012). Reflections on homelessness, mental illness, and crime. Journal of forensic psychology practice, 12(5), 409-423.


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