A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
Mentally ill offenders often spend unnecessary time in jail and, lacking access to mental health treatment services on release, often become repeat offenders and cycle through the justice system again. The presence of defendants with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system imposes substantial costs on that system and substantial harm on defendants.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to provide humane and just treatment to persons with mental illnesses in prisons and in jails.