In Judge Steve Leifman’s courtroom in Miami-Dade County, Florida, he can easily be mistaken for a psychiatrist according to the Miami New Times. Although, his real position with the court is a criminal court judge. His passion happens to be about the mental health of the Men And Women who walk through his courtroom. Miami New Times claims he believes his job is to divert as many people away from jail and into the treatment they need.

I wish more judges around the country would look at similar situations and make a decision to divert instead of throwing a Mentally Ill person into jail.

Many county courthouses would be turned upside down if they set up diversion programs instead of throwing the mentally ill behind iron bars and throwing away the key.

Across the nation, police departments are getting on board and putting efforts into training their policemen and women to identify mentally ill criminals. I believe this is a step in the right direction for our justice system as well as protecting the mentally ill.

A desperate need for mental illness treatment and education in our justice system

As published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness one in 25 adults in the U.S. or 9.8 million have a serious mental illness which greatly interferes with or sets up boundaries for one or more major life activities.

NAMI continues with one in five teenagers (13-18 years old) or 21.4 percent encounters a severe mental disorder some time in their life.

Sadly, remarks the Judge to Miami New Times, “Miami contains America’s highest population of mentally ill people. At the same time, the city’s prison system just happens to be the largest provider of mental health care."

As shared by Judge Leifman to the Miami New Times, he had a severely schizophrenic patient who was escorted into his courtroom.

Within five years, this individual was arrested over 2,000 times. These cost taxpayers $13.7 million. This is what the Judge wants to stop, remarks the Miami New Times.

Police departments are learning more and more each day about the world of mental illness. In US news, we hear about the differences police see between a non-mentally ill person and a mentally ill person.

For instance, if a person has a knife, a couple of the police officers will point their guns at the person with the knife. At the same time, they will shout loudly and fast for three times, “Drop the knife!”

This tactic works for most people. However in a situation with a mentally ill person, they have learned the loud and fast talking can elevate the situation for a mentally ill person, as reported by the US News. If a criminal situation with someone who has a mental illness gets elevated, anything could happen. But one thing is for sure, somebody will most likely get hurt.

My brush with the law as an (unknown) mentally ill person

In my 20’s I had undiagnosed bipolar 1 and it went untreated. During that decade, I was mostly manic.

Manic or mania in bipolar is where you experience the highs of the moods. There is true mania and then there is hypomania which is mania but not as severe. I was true mania the majority of the time.

The symptoms of mania as listed on Psych Central include:

  • High energy
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Increased goal-directed activity
  • Risk-taking behavior (excessive involvement in pleasurable activities such as sex)

I experienced each symptom times a 1,000. It is no wonder I did not have more brushes with the law then I did with my bipolar being as bad as it was.

Once I was driving home from college and got stopped for going 19 mph over the speed limit. The Kentucky State Trooper was nice enough to not arrest me on the spot, but he instead gave me a ticket for traffic school.

Another brush with the law happened when I was in our state’s capital. The speed limit for the area was about 35 mph. I was not going anywhere near that. The Franklin County police officer was kind and gave me just a warning.

A third time did not result in a ticket but a huge hole was blown in my tailpipe. I was leaving a boyfriend’s house and he made me really mad. At half past midnight, I got into my car and smashed on the brakes on that quiet little street. The noise was horrific. I am glad there weren’t any police around.

Analysis of symptoms

Each incident had a heaping size of rage and anger. My blood was boiling. I wanted to release my anger on someone, anyone. The intensity of the rage made me feel important.

You saw risky behavior in each scenario with the increased speed of the car. I had no regard for traffic laws or those who manage those laws. Neither did I care about any people who could get hurt as a result of my driving.

I didn’t mention this when I shared the warning in Franklin County. Previously, I had lost a lot of weight. I looked good and I knew it (inflated view of oneself). I would be remiss in not revealing that I did attempt to talk sweetly and flirt with the officer. That could also be a risky behavior.

In my twenty's, I often got little sleep. When I was in Franklin County, it was after 11 PM. I had about 52 miles or around an hour left to go home. Where I needed to be was in my bed asleep.

In all three situations, I had extremely high energy. Almost to the point of exploding. As well as racing thoughts. Racing thoughts can get so loud and noisy inside your head that you are unable to focus.

As you can see, with this analysis, the moods that go on inside of just a bipolar are tremendous. Not to mention someone with schizophrenia and their delusions and hallucinations. PTSD people with flashbacks. Depression with the person wanting to kill him/herself. These are serious issues that need to be taken seriously by law enforcement and the people of this nation. We as a society are not here to judge but to help the fragile of our communities.