On television, a plea for mercy by way of mental deficiencies may be portrayed as an underhanded way to get around the system; this isn't real life, however. For some New York drug defense cases, it may be quite applicable to counter in the courts that an alleged crime has been committed by someone who has a verifiable history of mental disease. This isn't to say that "The devil made me do it" is an acceptable explanation, of course. Yet for some who have been charged and are putting together a drug defense, prior mental problems may need to be considered by the courts.
Unfortunately, rather than getting the help they truly need, many persons are housed in jails and prisons, rather than in mental facilities. In New York State, the ratio of inmates who could arguably be better off in institutions that were capable of assisting them with their issues -- such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder -- to inmates who could be considered "normal" is 1:7. This means that around 14 percent of all prisoners in New York might not belong in jail, but rather in institutions where they could be watched to ensure they take their medicines and get psychiatric help. In fact, many may have landed in correctional facilities because they sought to self-medicate (consciously or not) through the use of illegal substances.