Thursday, April 19, 2007

US prisons rife with mental health problems


By Jase Donaldson
Mar 20, 2007 - 8:26:03 AM

A new report states that over half the nation’s jail and prison inmates suffer from mental health disorders.

The study, released by the US Department of Justice’s research arm, confirms what wardens, inmates and corrections officers already know – that large numbers of convicts routinely exhibit symptoms of mania, anxiety, depression or psychotic disorders.

The report’s findings are based on a representative survey of more than 25,000 prisoners nationwide. The study showed that mental health problems were associated with an inmate’s violence and prior convictions. Those state prisoners with mental disorders were more likely to have at least three prior incarcerations and to have broken prison rules.

Mentally ill inmates were also twice as likely to have been injured in a prison fight, and substantially more likely to have been abused as a child and homeless in the year before their arrest. Three out of four were dependent on drugs and alcohol, with 37% saying they used drugs at the time of their crime.

Experts called the study disturbing. They said it illustrates a direct relationship between community health care gaps and the large numbers of mentally ill people who wind up in the criminal justice system.

Bill Emmet, of the Campaign for Mental Health Reform, said, "If one out of three people incarcerated in this country are receiving mental health treatment, it shows that there is something very wrong with the way services are delivered in the community. People need services before they do something that might result in their incarceration."

Furthermore, the study found that:
Female inmates had higher rates of mental illness than men – with 73% of females in state prisons reporting symptoms, compared to 55% of all males.

The prevalence of mental illness in prisons varied by race, with 62% of white inmates suffering from problems, compared to 55% of blacks and 46% of Hispanics.

Over half of mentally ill inmates had a family member who was incarcerated, and about 19% lived in foster care at some point while growing up; twice the percentage of inmates without mental health problems.

Article: US prisons rife with mental health problems
Date: Mar 20, 2007
Author: Jase Donaldson

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