The mentally ill have been often depicted in a criminalized manner. A large body of evidence suggests that the mentally ill are arrested, convicted, and sent to prison in proportions that surpass their actual criminal behavior (Skeem, Manchak, and Peterson, 2011). The mentally ill are often ‘referred’ to the criminal justice system due to poor or inappropriate resources in the mental health sector and this is due to the phenomenon of ‘deinstitutionalization’ seen in many countries in the last few decades (Hamden et al., 2011). The community mental health movement aimed at moving mental health away from a psychiatric hospital to the community has never been properly implemented in India. As a result of deinstitutionalization, the mentally ill increasingly come into contact with the police and courts, thus inflating the apparent relationship between crime and mental illness (Rai et al., 2014).
Many psychiatric patients abandoned by relatives take to the streets and are often arrested by the police for petty crimes as a preventive law and order measure (Golightley, 2014). Many of the symptoms of mental illness are behaviors considered to be antisocial or criminal, such as violence or wandering behavior (Fisher and Lieberman, 2013). Mental illness elevates the risk of arrest as detection and subsequent calls to the police are more likely in those with such problems (Smith and Alpert, 2007). There is also a bias in convictions, as the mentally ill are more likely to be charged and spend a long time in jail for similar crimes