By David Joel Miller
If you say you are suicidal will you stay out of prison? How about jail?
Nice try! Not likely!
People try all sorts of things to get out of going to prison. While saying you are suicidal may slow the process down a wee bit it won’t prevent it.
Jails and prisons have psychiatric units. They can put people on suicide watch. So just because you say you are suicidal will not prevent you serving a prison term.
People often confuse some very different ideas and the result is that they think things are one way when they are not. Here are the different concepts, very oversimplified. All of these, for the record, is very different from the popular conception of “crazy.”
Not guilty by reason of insanity.
This may get you off from the prison term but you may not be happy with the way it goes. Not guilty by reason of insanity means that at the time you committed the crime you did not understand that what you were doing was wrong. This is way beyond seriously and persistent mental illness and has nothing much to do with saying you want to kill yourself.
People who get this verdict go to a long-term psychiatric facility. You do not just stay for your 5 or 10. You stay until some psychiatrist is willing to risk his license on saying that you will not do this thing again and that you now have learned the difference between right and wrong.
I hear from clients who have been in these places that had they been up to going back to prison they might have chosen the prison.
Involuntary psychiatric hold.
There are three reasons you get placed on an involuntary hold. You say you will kill yourself, you threaten to kill someone else and we believe you or when we give you food and clothing you can’t figure out what to do with this stuff.
This involuntary hold usually gets you sent to a local mental hospital. These are not long-term facilities by any means.
You stay here for, in my state, up to 72 hours for evaluation and then at the discretion of the psychiatrist you might get put on a longer hold. For most people, this stay lasts a week to two. A stay beyond that is rare. Not the 72 hours is an “up to
” number. Lots of people get released in a lot less than 72 hours.
The objective here is to give you meds, get you stable and then send you somewhere else.
So if by some chance you convince someone you are going to harm yourself, you will get to stay here long enough for the meds to kick in and you to stop caring what happens. At that point off you go to the prison unit.
While a prisoner is at this kind of hospital there will probably be one full-time guard watching them. They watch you all the time, everywhere. This gets annoying enough some about-to-be-sentenced people make sudden recoveries.
Seriously and persistently mentally ill.
If you can convince the powers that be that you have a long-term mental health problem you will get sent to a prison with a psychiatric unit at which you may be required to take your meds. You may have the right to say no, but the prison can go before a judge and get a court order to medicate you against your will. Also refusing meds results in a lot of reductions in privileges and options.
Should you say you are suicidal to get out of jail?
My advice to whoever sent this question in is if you really are suicidal say so. But if you are not, do not try this dodge. The result could be more time and having to do things you do not want to do. You also run the risk of getting a label hung on you and face discrimination from the other prisoners. Who wants to do their whole time labeled a J-cat unless you really do need the meds.
Give it up. You did the crime, do the time and then consider doing something to rehabilitate yourself.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.