Prison As “Provider”: A Mental Health Travesty

Treating Mental Illness in Prison

The United States has the largest and most expensive prison system in the world. The inmate population has grown by nearly 80 percent over the last decade, partly because more than half the inmates commit new crimes soon after release and quickly end up back inside.

Two new reports from prison study groups suggest that mentally ill inmates are prime candidates not just for recidivism, but for destructive behavior and suicide when prisons fail to handle them properly. The studies, by Human Rights Watch and the Correctional Association of New York, show that prisons have actually become mental institutions by default. But they have largely failed to develop treatment programs that would permit mentally ill inmates to establish a routine that would allow them to control their symptoms and their lives.

The Human Rights Watch report can be accessed here. Reports authored by the Correctional Association of New York are provided here.

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