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The Champion

November 2016 , Page 38 

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Witness for the Prosecution? - A Primer on Understanding the Limits on the Government’s Gathering of Rebuttal Evidence When Mental Condition Is at Issue

By Wendy R. Calaway


Mental illness is pervasive within the population of criminal defendants. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report classified mentally ill prisoners as those experiencing symptoms or receiving treatment from a mental health professional.1 With this definition, the authors estimate that 1.26 million prisoners are mentally ill, representing 45 percent of federal offenders, 56 percent of state offenders, and 64 percent of jail inmates.2 A Bureau of Justice report, “Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers,” classified as mentally ill those prisoners who reported a mental health issue or an emotional condition.3 Based on this definition, the report’s author found that, at that time, there were a total of 283,600 mentally ill persons in prisons and 861,000 on probation. According to the author of the report, a commonly accepted estimate is that half or more of all incarcerated prisoners have mental health problems.4 Using any of these definitions, mental capacity

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