10/9: Mental illness is not a crime

By the AJC Editorial Board

Jails do a much better job of housing the criminal element than they can ever be expected to do in treating the mentally ill, who are routinely marched into cellblocks in the Atlanta region and across the state.

Sweeping mentally challenged people off our streets and into jails, often for minor nuisance offenses, does little more than conceal what remains a serious problem in Georgia, even as the state works to improve care. We’re not alone; other states are struggling with the same issue. We must fix it.

Frequent incarceration of the mentally ill conveniently removes them from public view. What it does not do — despite good intentions by jailers — is effectively address the illnesses that drew law enforcement attention in the first place. That’s a tragedy for the mentally fragile among us and also for the taxpayers whose dollars would be more effectively spent on community-based treatment, not haphazard detention.

Read what The AJC Editorial Board, along with the director of public policy and advocacy for Mental Health America of Georgia, and the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities have to say. Then comment below.

8 comments Add your comment


October 11th, 2011
11:22 am

Actually, Joe, the majority of the mentally ill do NOT commit crimes and misdemeanors. That’s because they’re living right next to you in society and being productive. In addition, there’s a big difference between bouncing a check and attacking someone on the street.

The majority of those with mental illness WHO HAVE ACCESS TO THE PRIVATE MEDICAL SYSTEM are able to maintain. The problem here is the horrific access for those who do not have private medical insurance.

Joe the Plutocrat

October 10th, 2011
8:35 am

true, but those afflicted with a mental illness often commit crimes (and misdomeanors). in addition, do we consider addictions to be an (mental) illness? if so; are we to establish an entire system to process the petty theives, vandals, etc.? ergo, while mental illness is not a crime in and of itself; the devil is in the details of indentifying the criminals within the ranks of the mentally ill.


October 9th, 2011
4:00 pm

The treatable mentally ill are not jailed as long as they maintain their stabilization.

Hillbilly D

October 8th, 2011
11:53 am

It’s true that mental illness isn’t a crime. People who are mentally ill need help but it’s damn near impossible to do that against their will. There needs to be a better way.


October 8th, 2011
10:28 am

We can thank the courts for this because it is difficult to force people into psychiatric programs. Many of these folks do not want to take their medications and would be better in residential programs but resist. Many choose the life as opposed to being subjected to psychiatric medications. It is a shame that for many the drugs have such horrible side effects that cause the illness to be preferable and the life of homelessness is often the result.


October 8th, 2011
9:41 am

You are sooooo right. Some might think of my ravings as a mental abreation, and would like me out of sight. Actually, I prefer my quiet domain, away from the pulsating madness of every day life. My best thoguhts are in quietude. I was in Olive Garden last night, first stood and waited for an hour for a table, then when seated, the noise hit an ambient level of 150 decibles. I would have been more comfortable at the end of the runway at Hartsfield International.

Atlanta mom

October 8th, 2011
12:43 am

But, I do agree, mental illness is not a crime.

Atlanta mom

October 8th, 2011
12:43 am

so, i have to click 3 different links to comment on this opinion? yeah, I’m so doing that