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How the Prison System's Lack of Mental Health Care Poses a Public Health Risk

 5 months ago       328 Views

Now, about half of all prison inmates suffer from some disorder, and there are more than three times as many seriously mentally ill people in jails and prisons than in hospitals.

Serious mental illness is two to four times higher among prisoners than it is in the general U.S. population, and mentally ill prisoners face substandard conditions compared to other inmates: they are disproportionately subjected to solitary confinement and other punishments as well as more frequent abuse from corrections officers and fellow prisoners.

Despite the clear need, only about a third of state prisoners and a sixth of jail inmates with mental illnesses report receiving treatment while incarcerated.

Often, the prison system prioritizes stabilization over true treatment, meaning staff prescribe medication to quell severe behavioral symptoms instead of routine treatment for the underlying illness itself.

In terms of drug dependency disorders, approximately half of prison and jail inmates suffer from substance abuse, but the U.S. punishes them for their illness rather than rehabilitates them.

53 percent of state and 45 percent of federal prison inmates meet criteria for a diagnosis of substance abuse or drug dependence.

The lack of addiction treatment, though, is one major failure of the prison system with many downfalls, including delaying the treatment process, returning patients to the general prison population too soon, a lack of positive reinforcement, and a tendency to view addiction as a character flaw rather than a treatable medical condition.

54 percent of mentally ill prisoners will return to jail as well.

Since most of the mental health neglect is based on cost concerns and stigmatization, we firstly need to recognize mental illness as a public health issue and emphasize that mental health care, like all healthcare, is a basic human right.

General prison reform would also reduce the prison population and the public health issue of chronic mental illness.


Author: Emily Rose Thorne

Source: affinitymagazine.us