Sundance Festival Highlights How the Criminal Justice System Treats Mental Illness

A high profile movie shown at The Sundance Festival recently highlighted the treatment of people with mental illness by America’s criminal justice system.

Kenneth Rosenberg, a psychiatrist, and director of “Bedlam,” highlighted how the criminal justice system is failing the mentally ill at a movie showcased at the Sundance Festival earlier this year.

Rosenberg described how Los Angeles County Jail in California, Rikers Island in New York City, and Harris County Jail in Texas house almost 44,000 people, reported Deseret News.

The film highlights how many of these inmates suffer from mental illnesses including bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and depression.

Mental illness is highlighted at Sundance Festival
Sundance film considers Criminal Justice System Treats Mental Illness

Bedlam examines the dismantling of America’s mental care system that left prisons and jails as the front line for people with psychiatric problems.

Rosenberg claims in the movie people who end up in jails frequently do so as a last resort. They cannot access the long-term healthcare they need and end up incarcerated after time on the streets or in emergency rooms.

The film “Bedlam” is named after the infamous psychiatric hospital in London that housed people with mental disorders.

The film describes the dismantling of a once-extensive network of state mental hospitals under President John F. Kennedy. The idea was to return people with mental illnesses into society and provide treatment through community mental health centers.

The government withdrew federal funding from the centers in the 1980s. Many people with mental illnesses ended up on the streets and in jails and prisons.

Rosenberg had first-hand experience of mental illness. His sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized when she was just 20-years-old.

Thousands of people with mental illnesses are locked up in Arizona. In 2014, a report by the Treatment Advocacy Center found mentally ill people are 10 times more likely to end up in jails and prisons in Arizona.

Nationally, about 26 percent of people who are locked up suffer from a mental health disorder, compared to 18 percent of the general public. An article in Arizona Senora News Service estimated more than 11,000 people in the state’s prisons suffer from a mental illness.

The criminal justice system treats mental illness in a blunt way. At the Garcia Law Firm, we champion the rights of people with mental disorders. Please contact us today for a consultation if your loved one has been charged with a criminal offense.