Incarceration and Mental Health

Spotlight: Series on Mental Illness (and Prisons)
Boston Globe, November 2016
“Within three years of being released, 37 percent of inmates who leave state prisons with mental illnesses are locked up again, compared with 30 percent of those who do not have mental health problems, according to a Department of Correction analysis of 2012 releases. Inmates battling addiction fare worse: About half are convicted of a new crime within three years, according to one state study. And inmates with a “dual diagnosis” of addiction and mental illness…do the worst of all, national studies show.”

New Report Documents the Devastating Effects of Solitary Confinement on Mental Illness
Solitary Watch, September 9 , 2016
“A new report released yesterday highlights the disturbing use of solitary confinement on incarcerated individuals with mental illness. Locked Up and Locked Down: Segregation of Inmates with Mental Illness, released by Disability Rights Washington, details the widespread practice of housing men, women, and children with mental illness in solitary confinement. The report shows that prisons and jails routinely subject people with mental illness to conditions that dramatically exacerbate their condition, often to the point of suicide.”

Justice Department Seeks Better Interactions with Mentally Ill
Associated Press, April 19, 2016
“The Justice Department is working to address the problems by encouraging better police interactions with people struggling with mental illness, as well as mental-health treatment for suspects both inside and outside prison. The department is also promoting the use of specialized mental-health courts and diverting some suspects to treatment instead of jail, plus improved treatment for those who wind up behind bars.”

Rethinking Mental Illness and its Path to the Criminal Justice System
Vera Institute of Justice, March 7, 2016
“People often assume that there is a direct relationship between mental illness and crime: the symptoms of mental illness lead to criminal justice involvement, and connecting people to mental health treatment will prevent future justice system involvement. But a growing body of research suggests this is not the case. Indeed, researchers across several fields have demonstrated that the strongest predictors of recidivism (such as homelessness and criminal history) appear in people with and without mental illness.”

Prisons Have Become America’s New Asylums
Slate, January 5, 2016
“Ten times more mentally ill people are now in jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals: In 2012, approximately 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness were in prisons and jails, while about 35,000 severely ill patients were in state psychiatric hospitals.”

More Than a Decade After Release, They All Come Back
USA Today, November 4, 2015
“Since 2002, USA TODAY has been tracking nine Texas offenders released that November day…all of whom spent prolonged periods in isolation, either as punishment for misconduct in prison or for their association with criminal gangs. [All nine] inmates freed from solitary on the same day have all returned at least once — and some multiple times. Some describe a type of sensory paralysis that seemed to overwhelm them once they were finally free, a troubling consequence of the most extreme condition of confinement that has recently drawn the scrutiny of the Justice Department, prison officials and lawmakers across the U.S.”

What Happened When an Illinois County Rehabilitated Mentally Ill Offenders Through Treatment
Think Progress, September 18, 2015
At Cook County jail, a team of mental health professionals determine a defendant’s eligibility for the program once they’re dropped off by the police…Practitioners also conduct an evaluation. If the individual is deemed in need of mental health treatment, officials prepare a packet to allow their lawyer to ask a judge for diversion from conventional incarceration.”

Judge Tells California to Explain Empty Psychiatric Beds While Prisoners Wait for Care
Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2015
“In 2010, California had hundreds of mentally ill prisoners on long wait lists for inpatient treatment. The state was ordered to admit many of them to two psychiatric hospitals that also house people who are accused of crimes but judged innocent by reason of insanity or incompetent to stand trial.'”

New York City Initiative Aims to Help Mentally Ill People Who Get Violent
The New York Times, August 6, 2015
“The mayor said the goal of NYC Safe, a $22 million mental health initiative, was to aggressively reach mentally ill people prone to hurting themselves or others. Various agencies, including the Department of Homeless Services and the New York Police Department, will share information with one another about those people to make sure they are being treated, city officials said.”

L.A. County Task Force Suggests Ways to Divert Mentally Ill From Jails
Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2015
“The report comes as county supervisors are under pressure from federal authorities to improve conditions for mentally ill jail inmates and are wrestling with plans for a new Men’s Central Jail that would be largely focused on psychiatric treatment.”

Of All U.S. Police Shootings, One-Quarter Reportedly Involve the Mentally Ill
NPR, July 4, 2015
“This week, the [Washington] Post published a database with information on every fatal shooting by a police officer in the line of duty in the U.S. And they took the extra step of identifying — when they could — details about the mental health of the deceased.”

Treating Mentally Ill Offenders
The Crime Report, June 30, 2015
“The lawsuit, first filed in 2007 by inmate Ashoor Rasho, accuses the Illinois Department of Corrections  (IDOC) of denying adequate mental health care to inmates whose conditions often deteriorate without proper treatment.”

Mental Health Transitions Center, Teaches Mentally Ill Chicago Jail Inmates Coping Skills
The News-Sentinel, June 29 2015
“By rearranging his staff and creating positions for three counselors and finding guards with experience in mental health [the Sheriff] came up with a plan to help detainees go through a transition program with mental health counseling and education while connecting them to possible job sources in the community and the services they would need on the outside to keep them up on their medications.”

In Los Angeles, A National Model for How to Police the Mentally Ill
Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 2015
“By partnering beat cops with mental health clinicians, the MEU reined in costs associated with frivolous 911 calls. It also connected thousands of individuals with counseling and support, reducing incidences of force used on individuals with mental illness and alleviating the burden on overcrowded emergency rooms and the criminal justice system.”

Women, Prison And Mental Health – State Deals With A Troubled Population In Its Corrections System
NPR Illinois, June 1, 2015
“In state prisons nationwide, females have a higher rate of mental health problems, 73 percent, as compared with 55 percent among males. Only about of a third of those female prisoners receive treatment. Of those with mental illness, 68 percent reported that they had been physically or sexually abused in the past compared to 36 percent among those without mental illness. Of the mentally ill female prisoners, nearly three-quarters met the criteria for substance dependency or abuse and almost 64 percent had used drugs in the month before their arrest.”

Community and Stakeholder Perceptions of the Rhode Island Criminal Justice System’s Interactions with Persons with Mental Illness
The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, June 2015
“This survey, sponsored by the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI) in collaboration with Roger Williams University, was conducted as part of a collaborative statewide effort to improve mental health services in the Rhode Island Criminal Justice System.”

Psychologist to Head Chicago Jail, Nation’s Second Largest
Reuters, May 19, 2015
“Cook County houses an average of 9,000 inmates daily, of which 25 percent to 35 percent suffer from mental illness, according to a spokesman. That number has grown in recent years as the number of mental health facilities fell, jail officials said.”

Items in the News Archive provide an opportunity to explore issues related to incarceration and health of justice-involved individuals in the United States from a media perspective. Please note that the articles listed below are by no means exhaustive. They represent a collection of relatively recent news items staff deemed relevant to the Center and its work. For more in-depth academic resources related to this topic, please select the corresponding category under the Educational Resources tab.

A Pilot Program to Help, Not Jail, the Mentally Ill
The Chicago Tribune, May 13, 2015
“Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has launched a pilot program at the Markham Courthouse to identify people with mental health problems before they are sent to the jail that he runs. The program targets individuals charged with misdemeanors in an effort to get them into treatment and keep them out of the criminal justice system in the future.”

Mentally Ill Inmates are Routinely Physically Abused, Study Says
The New York Times, May 12, 2015
“Mentally ill inmates in prisons and jails across the United States are subjected to routine physical abuse by guards, including being doused with chemical sprays, shocked with electronic stun guns and strapped for hours to chairs or beds, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.”

Inmates in Oregon’s Behavioral Health Unit Harm Themselves Get Out of Solitary Cells
The Oregonian, May 3, 2015
“Oregon inmates suffering from the most severe mental illnesses harm themselves – bashing their heads against the walls, slicing their wrists, swallowing items or trying to hang themselves – in desperate attempts to get out of their solitary cells in a special behavioral unit, according to Disability Rights Oregon.”

NY expands mental health safety net for released inmates
Associated Press, March 11, 2015
“New York is expanding its efforts to make sure inmates who receive mental health treatment in prison aren’t cut off from such care when they are released. Discharge planning that included medication, enrollment in Medicaid and initial clinic appointments had only extended to the 3,500 to 4000 inmates with a serious mental illness or who were getting treatment at the time of their release. A new law that took effect last month expands that to 3,000 more inmates discharged annually who got treatment sometime in the previous three years.”

Nearly all Denver jail inmates in high-risk unit have brain trauma
The Denver Post, March 9, 2015
“Almost every inmate in the downtown Denver jail’s high-risk unit has a traumatic brain injury, so many that what began as a one-time university service learning project has grown into a new therapy program spreading to jails along the Front Range. Neurological researchers from the University of Denver expected to find an above-average prevalence of brain trauma at the Downtown Detention Center. But the results were high enough to shock them. Nearly every inmate screened — 96 percent — had a traumatic brain injury. That’s significantly higher than national statistics showing from 67 percent to 80 percent of inmates in jails and prisons have a traumatic brain injury, and far higher than the estimated 6 percent to 8.5 percent of the general population.”

The Modern Asylum
The New York Times, February 18, 2015
Christine Montross, a staff psychiatrist at Butler Hospital in Providence, R.I., is the author of “Falling Into the Fire: A Psychiatrist’s Encounters With the Mind in Crisis.” In an op-ed in yesterday’s Times she writes: “Last month, three ethicists from the University of Pennsylvania argued in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the movement to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill has been a failure. Deinstitutionalization, they wrote, has in truth been “transinstitutionalization.” As a hospital psychiatrist, I see this every day. Patients with chronic, severe mental illnesses are still in facilities — only now they are in medical hospitals, nursing homes and, increasingly, jails and prisons, places that are less appropriate and more expensive than long-term psychiatric institutions. The ethicists argue that the ‘way forward includes a return to psychiatric asylums.’ And they are right.”

Jails and prisons not equipped to care for mentally ill
Star News Online, September 27, 2014
“There should be no shortage of outrage over the revelation that a mentally ill prisoner in Alexander County died of thirst while in custody. The incident happened in March, but the autopsy was just released on Thursday. A much more thorough public accounting is in order.”

Mental health ruling in Washington state could reverberate through country
Governing, October 2014
“Emergency rooms have become a place of last resort for the mentally ill. With increased demand on proper mental health facilities, the practice known as psychiatric boarding — temporarily holding mentally ill patients in hospital ERs until beds become available at certified treatment centers — has become a serious problem nationwide. Now, it’s an unconstitutional one in Washington state.”

Police learn to honor mentally ill human rights, ending excessive force, jail
Examiner, October 22 2014
“Police have been using excessive force on mentally ill Americans and victims have become justifiably terrified they will be next to experience this human rights abuse that has turned into a $9 billion prison racket. One state, however, is implementing a new way to manage this abuse, according to news reports on Wednesday and Brave New Films has documented the disturbing old police ways as well as hopeful new results of police crisis intervention training.”

Judges impose sanctions on Washington health agencies for lack of inmate mental health care
Puget Sound Business Journal, October 30, 2014
“Washington state judges are imposing sanctions on the state’s health agencies for failure to provide evaluations and treatment for mentally ill county inmates, the Associated Press reported this week. Judges are also holding those agencies in contempt of court.”

Pete Earley: Sending the mentally ill from group homes to an uncertain future
The Washington Post, October 30, 2014
“The federal government is pushing two initiatives that will radically change how mental health services are delivered. Both are long overdue. So why, as the father of an adult son with a mental illness, am I skeptical?”

Mentally ill are not helped by incarceration
Lafayette Journal & Courier, November 9, 2014
“Society doesn’t throw people with cancer in prison because of their illness and expect them to get better, yet if people with mental illness exhibit antisocial behavior, they find themselves locked away with no meaningful treatment.”

Learning to treat prisoners with signs of mental illness
TimesUnion, November 13, 2014
“In December 2010, Damian DePauw realized that he was experiencing symptoms of mental illness. He was in Washington County Jail.
He asked a corrections officer for help, and was told he’d have to wait for a nurse.
The nurse told him that the psychiatrist who could diagnose him and prescribe medication was gone for the day — he’d have to wait out the weekend until the psychiatrist returned on Monday.”

Saving Kids from a Life of Crime: Suffolk County Officials Aim to Break the Cycle of Recidivism
Long Island News and PR, November 13, 2014
“On Wednesday, November 12th, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Sheriff Vincent DeMarco released the findings of a study to evaluate the mental healthcare in Suffolk County’s jail system. Suffolk County residents will pay almost $50 million this year to house its local inmate population, a cost that could be significantly lowered by rehabilitation, according to Anker and DeMarco.”

Q-and-A: Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on San Francisco Jail System
San Francisco Public Press, November 21, 2014
“While the overall inmate population in San Francisco is declining, the percentage of inmates with serious mental health problems — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder and others — has climbed.”

Maine Voices: Time has come to integrate treatment of mental and physical illness
Portland Press Herald, November 28, 2014
“Tens of millions of Americans who live with mental illness also suffer from a serious co-occurring physical condition. Because of this, many people with persistent mental illness die as much as 25 years earlier than the rest of the population, according to national studies. The research clearly demonstrates that such early deaths are, for the vast majority of these people, directly related to their poor physical health.”

Ind. prison system faces difficult task in caring for mentally ill, November 30, 2014
“The U.S. Supreme Court wrote in 1987 that running a prison is an “inordinately difficult undertaking.” Has much changed since the nation’s high court took a case about the constitutional rights of prisoners in the 1980s? Experts tend to say not much, especially regarding the enormous task of caring for mentally ill inmates amid shrinking resources.”

New York City Plans Focus on Mental Health in Justice System
The New York Times, December 1, 2014
“In an effort to reduce the growing number of inmates with mental health and substance abuse problems in New York City’s jails, the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans on Monday to significantly expand public health services at almost every step of the criminal justice process.”

State prison system making changes to deal with mentally ill
The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 7, 2014
“There were many times during Khasiem Carr’s tumultuous journey through Pennsylvania’s mental health and prison systems when it seemed things couldn’t get worse. Then, they generally did.”

Incarcerated: Hundreds who need mental-health care forced into ACI
Providence Journal, December 13, 2014
“An absence of strong statewide leadership and a fragmented, underfunded public mental-health system have resulted in hundreds of people with mental illness being imprisoned at the Adult Correctional Institutions.”

Reginald Latson’s case points to a major problem in U.S. prisons
The Washington Post, December 23, 2014
“Neli Latson has a music player. Also, he can order snacks from the canteen and leave his cell for several hours a day. This is good news, or what passes for it, in the life of Reginald Latson, a 23-year-old with autism and an IQ of 69 who goes by the nickname of Neli. It is good news because, for more than a year, he has been held in solitary confinement in a Virginia prison.”

Officials seek solutions to ‘revolving door’ for mentally ill defendants
Grand Forks Herald, December 24, 2014
“With the responsibility of treating the mentally ill often falling on an already strained criminal justice system, North Dakota officials are looking for ways to keep people with mental illnesses out from behind bars and in treatment.”

Jailing the sick
Providence Journal, December 28, 2014
“On a cold winter day in Rhode Island, a person who is mentally ill and homeless stands a good chance of winding up in jail. As Journal Staff Writer G. Wayne Miller has documented in a probing series, the state’s community-based system of caring for the mentally ill has slowly and quietly fallen apart. Too often, that has left prison as the only place for the struggling mentally ill to go.”