Mentally Ill Not Responsible for Most Crime in US

This may shock you (as it did me).  But most crimes are not committed by mentally ill people.

According to a new study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5 percent were directly related to symptoms of mental illness, newswise.com reports.

Of course, it's the horrific crimes that are perpetrated by the mentally ill that we hear about, I suppose. But researchers who analyzed 429 crimes committed by 143 offenders with three major types of mental illness found that 3 percent of their crimes were directly related to symptoms of major depression, 4 percent to symptoms of schizophrenia disorders and 10 percent to symptoms of bipolar disorder.

“When we hear about crimes committed by people with mental illness, they tend to be big headline-making crimes so they get stuck in people’s heads,” the Web site quotes lead researcher Jillian Peterson, PhD. “The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous.”
The person who immediately comes to mind for me is Adam Lanza, the murderer of 20 first graders in Newtown, CT, less than 18 months ago.  At the time many experts said the same thing, that most mentally ill people do not commit crimes.  But it was hard to get out of our heads that that's the only thing that could make someone so senselessly, so cruelly, so maliciously gun down innocent six-year-olds.  
"The study didn’t find any predictable patterns linking criminal conduct and mental illness symptoms over time," newswise points out. Two-thirds of the offenders who had committed crimes directly related to their mental illness symptoms also had committed unrelated crimes for other reasons, such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness and substance abuse, according to the research. “Is there a small group of people with mental illness committing crimes again and again because of their symptoms? We didn’t find that in this study,” Peterson said at the Web site.
Here's the truly sad part.  In the United States, more than 1.2 million people with mental illness are incarcerated in jails or prisons, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. People with mental illnesses also are on probation or parole at two to four times the rate for the general population. What do we do with them when we don't know what else to do?  Throw them in jail.  Not sure that's the answer, at all.

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