Statistics show that mental health issues plague prison inmates on a much higher level than the general population. Additionally, inmates suffering from mental health issues tend to spend a much longer time in jail and actually receive the least amount of help needed in order to keep them from ever being incarcerated again. These conditions create a revolving door effect where the inmates most in need for help are often the ones who return to prison.
Why then does this cyclical process happen? Doesn’t the law guarantee inmates adequate treatment to address their mental health needs? The answer lies in the fact that these mentally ill inmates are not medicated and thus, understanding their basic rights is nearly impossible. Inevitably, this leads to our current situation where prisons house more of our mentally ill than hospitals do. According to the National Sheriffs’ Association, 3.2 times more mentally ill persons are incarcerated rather than receiving treatment at a hospital. Coupled with the fact that incarcerating an individual is much more costly than providing mental health treatment, it could be said that we’re facing a major crisis.
There has, however, been progress in providing better mental health help for inmates. For example, as of 2008, 44% of prison systems now have a dedicated line item in their departmental budgets for mental health care. This is a sharp rise from 29% in 2004. Additionally, 53% of systems now use telemedicine in order to deliver clinical care to inmates in need. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, inmates are provided with crisis intervention support, resulting in a suicide rate that is lower than the general population.
In order to obtain mental health help, it is best if the inmates shares recent history if treatment of being medicated with prison officials. Even better is that this is known before sentencing as help can be assigned to the prisoner. Moreover, the prisoner can disclose this information later on when appealing to prison officials for mental health help.
Unfortunately, the treatments vary in scope and quality from state to state. Some states offer treatment at community health providers and increased supervision while on parole while others merely offer safer housing for mentally ill inmates. The good news is that managed out-of-prison care is becoming more popular with inmates that have serious mental health needs. Additionally, jail staffs have been mandated to receive special training for dealing with mentally ill inmates.
In conclusion, because each state offers different kinds of mental health help for inmates, it’s best that you research your state’s specific treatments and it’s also important to keep in contact with an attorney in order to maximize your treatment. Serious changes need to be made in the current system. There are, however, steps that can be taken in order to better the situation of many inmates.
written by Brandon, Friday, 06:31 PM, June 25, 2010