Tag Archives: inmates

Inmates with Behavioral Health Disorders

Prisons Failing to Provide Adequate Help to Inmates with Behavioral Health Disorders

Prisons have long been a final destination for drug addicts and people suffering from various types of mental illnesses. Oftentimes they are convicted of selling or using drugs or committing some unlawful act due to their mental state. However, while imprisoned, many of these people are not getting the help they actually need in order to get better.

According to a new study published by the Department of Justice, over 60% of inmates who are in need of help are not receiving any form of treatment. In this case mental health problems include drug abuse. This is despite the fact that there is plenty of information that would indicate that prisons, both state and federal, should have policies in place to help their mental health population.

The study shows that prisoners are five times more likely to have a mental health problem than other U.S. citizens, and most prisoners report that they have had a mental health issue at least once in their lives prior to being convicted.

As part of the study, the researchers wanted to determine how many current prisoners exhibit mental health issues without receiving treatment. They found that many of the inmates polled exhibited major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, all things that can lead to a drug addiction or a higher recidivism rate. What is unknown is how much being in prison escalated their symptoms, although some treatment experts have indicated that incarceration can trigger mental health issues.

“Once you’re in jail, your life is going to be destabilized – you’re going to lose your house, employment, it can have a snowball effect. Again and again we are seeing people who are in crisis and are being put in jail for substance abuse issues or mental health issues and that’s just not the best way to be dealing with those problems. Jails aren’t treatment programs,” explained Wendy Sawyer, an analyst with the Prison Policy Institute.

Of course, the main debate is whether the prison system is intended to help a person or punish the person. If prison policies aim to restore an individual to a working, honest and contributing member of society, then mental health help will need to be provided. There should also be frequent screenings to ensure that prison life is not creating more mental health issues and the focus should be on actual rehabilitation as much as possible.

Federal Government Pushing for More Inmates to Complete Rehabilitation Programs

inmateAlthough the penal system in the United States is far from perfect, there are signs that reform may be possible. For example, recent report indicated that the Department of Justice is proposing rule changes that will enable more inmates to attend residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs while incarcerated.

The change in the regulations will take a more clinical perspective on whether or not inmates are ready to complete their treatment, as well as offer an incentive of possibly getting paroled up to a year earlier. They assert that studies show inmates who complete drug treatment are roughly 15 percent less likely to get arrested again.

One of the most criticized elements of the American criminal justice system is that it is primarily set up for punishment and failure rather than rehabilitation. Not only are recidivism rates very high, but inmate populations are mistreated and billions of dollars are paid to private corrections companies in lucrative contracts to build and house offenders.

In other words, the more people get arrested and become repeat offenders, the more money they make. People who do become rehabilitated are few compared to those who become lifetime criminals as a result.

At least this latest move by the Department of Justice shows that there is some acknowledgement of the fact that real rehabilitation, for substance abuse as well as criminal behavior, is much more beneficial for the inmates and society as a whole.