Mental Health in Prisons Statistics 2016

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Mental Health in Prisons Statistics 2016

Mental health is a pressing concern within the criminal justice system and among policymakers, researchers and practitioners due to its high rates of incarceration, suicide, violence, victimization and self-harm associated with mental illness.

Many people with mental illness begin their imprisonment with a severe disorder and are especially vulnerable to further developing or redeveloping it during prison. This is especially true for younger inmates, who are more likely to develop disorders like substance abuse, anxiety or panic disorders, personality disorder, psychotic disorder, developmental disabilities bipolar and dysthymia impulse control depression sleep and movement disorders.

Despite these high prevalences of mental illness in prisons, there remain significant obstacles to identification and treatment. A lack of resources, inadequate access to quality clinical services, insufficient staffing levels and the intricate makeup of the inmate population can all contribute to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Suicide and other adverse outcomes in prisons are a public health crisis, yet research on effective interventions is scarce. Most mental health treatment research in prisons has focused on pharmacological treatments for ADHD and depression as well as CBT-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Unfortunately, lack of RCT-quality studies for other common mental health conditions such as substance misuse, alcohol misuse and violence will hinder the development of new and successful interventions.

Mentally disordered individuals are particularly at risk for various adverse outcomes in prison, such as suicide, self-harm, violence and victimisation, premature mortality and reoffending upon release. These outcomes are not caused by one factor but rather the combination of environmental risk factors, substance misuse issues and mental illness. These findings emphasize the necessity to address both individual level risk factors as well as identify modifiable elements which can be treated through treatment.

Recurrence of psychiatric disorders after release is high, particularly during the initial few years after re-entry. According to one study, nearly 50% of inmates with severe mental illness who completed their sentence ended up back in jail within 6 years after release. These alarming re-incarceration rates should concern corrections psychologists working in this field.

Psychologists have sought to prevent inmates with mental illnesses from returning to prison by altering their thinking and behaviors to avoid antisocial patterns of behavior that can lead to crime. A program being tested by Texas Tech University professor Robert Morgan, PhD in Lubbock, TX, seeks to target such behaviors through prison-based interventions designed to reduce recidivism rates and enhance inmates’ overall health.

Mental illness is also a significant contributor to social and economic disadvantages, such as unemployment and low educational attainment. These difficulties can compound the negative effects of mental illness such as low self-esteem, poor communication/interpersonal skills and violent tendencies – leading to increased re-incarceration for people with these issues and an increased likelihood of repeat offending. That’s why psychologists working in prison settings are advocating for improved approaches to providing mental health care within prison settings.

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