Jail does not seem to motivate better use of mental health services.
Our legal system maintains goals of improving public safety and reducing repeat offenses. Many people in the criminal system suffer from drug and/or mental health problems. So, it seems a valid question to ask is if going to jail makes it more likely for someone to seek community services.
Jail is a form of negative reinforcement. There are plenty of studies to support this form of operant conditioning does not lead to changed behavior. While we can also postulate there are many other social and economic factors affecting someone who may serve jail time, it seems fair to say that when it comes to mental health treatment, jail delays time to care and has no better outcomes.
Reuben Sutter, M.D. is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico, and Medical Director of Sage Neuroscience Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Founder and Clinical Director
Dr. Reuben Sutter is the founder and Medical Director for Sage Neuroscience Center. He is board-certified in general adult psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is also the past president of the psychiatric Medical Association of New Mexico. His practice focus includes severe mental illness, substance use disorders, and treatment-resistant depression. He supervises the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation service.