The issue of police violence and personal injury has come to the forefront of the public’s attention this last year.  Many are concerned about racial disparities when it comes to police misconduct and people getting injured or killed, but has anyone looked at the overlap between police violence and mental illness issues?

According to data compiled, of all the people shot and killed by police officers last year, 25 percent of them showed signs of mental illness. Many individuals who end up in prisons and jails also have serious mental illnesses and never received assistance or opportunities for intervention. Thus, the explanation isn’t as simple as just too much police violence plaguing our society; but also inadequate mental health treatment, which is arguably feeding into police violence.

Criminal Charges Instead of Mental Health Assistance

City by city, we are eliminating millions in community mental health treatment services, affecting those living in poverty who are most in need of these services; many of whom will likely end up charged with crimes and in jails precisely because mental health services were not available to them. Many of those who are called upon to be the “front line” on mental health issues (police) are not even properly trained to deal with these types of emergencies.

Solutions?

Some have called for not only more training with our “front line” of defense (police), but also for making strides in bringing together law enforcement and mental health services to actually offer more to help and prevent the mentally ill, when possible, from being charged with crimes and ending up in jail. To do this, mental health workers would have to work with police in the form of a “crisis team” and alternatives to jail would have to be offered, such as clinics or urgent services to provide housing and care.

Although there is no end-all be-all panacea to the overlap crisis between mental health issues and incarceration, we must at least take steps to try and avert violence and incarceration as the only modes of response.

Help In Rhode Island

There are programs in Rhode Island designed to provide housing to those who are homeless and suffer from severe mental illness. One of those is known as the Safe Havens program, as run by Rhode Island Housing. In addition, their Shelter Plus Care Program is designed to provide rental assistance and other support services to those who are seriously mentally ill.

Dana & Dana

If a family member has died due to the negligent or intentional act of the police or someone else, or you have been charged with a criminal offense, the Rhode Island attorneys at Dana & Dana can help. We are dedicated to providing respect, compassion and care for all of our clients in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. We have the experience and expertise to ensure the highest quality criminal defense representation possible. Contact us today for a free consultation.