Start A Petition

U.S. Prisons Home to 10 Times More Mentally Ill Than State Hospitals

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, americans, corruption, crime, culture, death, dishonesty, education, government, media, medications, Mental health, politics, prisons, safety, society )

- 1474 days ago -
New report slams lack of treatment for seriously ill inmates as 'inhumane,' calls for reforms.

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


Kit B (276)
Wednesday May 7, 2014, 7:43 am
Image: Quote from Glenn Close

There are 10 times more mentally ill Americans in prisons and jails than in state psychiatric hospitals, a report published Tuesday found — adding that those individuals’ conditions often deteriorate while they are incarcerated.

The report, “The Treatment of Persons With Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails,” called for reform of laws and practices focused on the treatment of mental illness. It also encouraged cost studies to compare the true cost of housing individuals in prisons or jails as opposed to treating them in the community.

Mentally ill Americans who are imprisoned often leave incarceration sicker than when they entered, according to the report, released by the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness.

“The lack of treatment for seriously ill inmates is inhumane and should not be allowed in a civilized society,” Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center and lead author of the study, said Tuesday in a statement.

In 2012, there were an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illnesses in U.S. prisons and jails. There were only 35,000 mentally ill individuals in state psychiatric hospitals.

“In 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, a prison or jail in that state holds more individuals with serious mental illness than the largest remaining state psychiatric hospital,” the report said. “For example, in Ohio, 10 state prisons and two county jails each hold more mentally ill inmates than does the largest remaining state hospital.”

Some mentally ill prisoners refuse treatment because they are unaware of their illness — which worsens their symptoms, the report said. Treatment for mental illness is a right affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The incarceration of these individuals leads to increased taxpayer costs in the long run, according to the report. Mentally ill prisoners have higher rates of recidivism.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) — the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization — offers alternatives to incarceration on its website. NAMI suggests training programs for police officers who come into contact with people with severe mental illnesses in their communities to recognize the signs and symptoms and respond appropriately.

State courts should also be given the authority to divert nonviolent offenders with severe mental illness away from incarceration and into appropriate treatment, NAMI said.

In December, the White House announced a $100 million campaign to increase access to mental health services.

"The fact that less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need is unacceptable. The President and I have made it a priority to do everything we can to make it easier to access mental health services," Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement on Dec. 10.

Mentally ill people were routinely confined to prisons and jails until the early 19th century, when the practice was deemed inhumane and problematic, and they were hospitalized instead. But following a series of exposés on the “abysmal” conditions of those psychiatric hospitals, many were closed by the 1970s.

In prisons and jails today, mentally ill prisoners are often victimized or sent to solitary confinement, and they attempt suicide at disproportionate rates, according to the report.

The study added, “By shifting the venue of these mentally ill individuals from hospitals to prisons and jails, we have succeeded in replicating the abysmal conditions of the past but in a nonclinical setting whose fundamental purpose is not medical in nature.”

By: Renee Lewis | Al Jazeera |

To verify the information please use this title to find numerous scholarly aricles:
-- The Treatment of Persons With Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails --


Robert B (60)
Wednesday May 7, 2014, 8:53 am
Another failure of politicians, who no being mental health professionals, sought to save money at the expense of the those who could not fend for themselves.

Justin Vale (13)
Wednesday May 7, 2014, 10:38 am
i once had a little issue with another inmate at hartford correctional center and the coward who started the fight by trying to act like the big bad jailhouse bull ended up pressing charges on me. while on trail i asked the judge for a translator and she tells me, but mister *****, you're speaking perfect english. and i answered, i don't need a translator from english to spanish, i need a translator from ape to english cause i can't understand a word they're saying and i pointed at the prosecution table. everyone in the court room started laughing except the judge. she gave me 90 days at the maximum security Whiting Forensic Division in Middletown. an insane asylum. she wanted a full evaluation on me, claiming i was a danger to others and to keep me away frm other inmates.
when i got there i was expecting to have to deal with nuts. and yeah there were mentally challenged people there ( i group of them following me around after they released me in to gen-pop, including a dwarf female bodyguard, it was co-ed ). but most of the people i found there were fakers that were afraid of jail and prison. they would slah their wrist to be send there. and it isn't as much fun as a regular prison but for the softee's i can see why they prefer it.
what i'm trying to say is that it is way more expensive keeping an inmate in them and you find normal people scared out of their wits taking up the space of people who should really be there forcing the state to keep the real mental inmates in regular prisons.
that was a long time ago and i still look out and send candy and munchies money for a few guys that are never coming out of there. when i first got there most of them had been abandoned by their families. but i got there with g's in my commissary. and i spread the wealth, i had a troupe following me everywhere. nobody could come near me including the guards and administrators unless they let them pass. i was the king of the nuts.

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday May 7, 2014, 12:01 pm
This is such a big shame and one can only hope that those suggestions announced by the administration will be implemented. "Mentally ill Americans who are imprisoned often leave incarceration sicker than when they entered"
well of course, what else could be expected!
Thx Kit for shedding a light on this sad chapter!

. (0)
Wednesday May 7, 2014, 3:19 pm

Sheryl G (363)
Wednesday May 7, 2014, 5:15 pm
So much for more of America's "exceptionalism". It has long been understood that prisons have been housing a lot of the mentally ill. I recall when the State Mental Health hospitals all began to close how the Community would be able to absorb and help them better.

While I'm not saying that long term housing of the mentally ill in those large State run facilities was good or even adequate and could of been greatly improved, it isn't any better for the mentally ill to be roaming around the streets freezing to death, going hungry, and being beaten by people who see them as easy prey. Nor is it okay to throw them in prison which wasn't set up to care for the unique circumstances of the mentally ill. So I don't see where we have improved anything for those poor souls.

Throwing some pills at them and expecting them to take them on a regular bases when they are homeless is nothing that works. They have no safe place to store their medications, many times no way to tell time, and so once the disease spirals out of control the pills are forgotten. Many are not getting adequate follow up, many lack the skills to hold down shelter and pay their bills timely. Cut backs on funding for the mentally ill mean less monies to service them.

"It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped." Hurbert H. Humphrey

I'd say we are failing on all counts.......


Vallee R (280)
Wednesday May 7, 2014, 5:19 pm
This is sad - though not surprised - love the quote Dandelion quoted - just so many things wrong here

Deb E (63)
Wednesday May 7, 2014, 11:40 pm
The human race has so much capacity to be good. I just cannot fathom why it insists on being heartless and cruel. Where I live, there are no mental health facilities for people who are poor unless they are threatening to commit suicide. Then they get locked up at a local hospital "under observation" until they get over the crisis. No counseling unless you are rich. This is, in my opinion, an abomination.

Birgit W (160)
Thursday May 8, 2014, 3:13 pm
Just heartbreaking. Where is compassion?

Dan Nickerson (180)
Thursday May 8, 2014, 3:19 pm

Joanne D (38)
Thursday May 8, 2014, 3:20 pm
Yeah, tell me about it. Plus it is not all that easy to tell mental challenge from a simple bad attitude (and that itself is an oversimplification). Justin Vale above points out that there are plenty of fakers. My husband has lasting damage from severe head injuries, yet no one in the judicial system will believe he is other that 100% mentally able, because he is articulate and has a good vocabulary.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Thursday May 8, 2014, 3:31 pm
Another example of inequality.

Freya H (357)
Thursday May 8, 2014, 4:01 pm
Just one of so many things horribly wrong with this (formerly?) great country. Slash funding for mental health facilities, fill up the jails. Anybody who thinks that prisons will provide the mentally ill with anything even remotely resembling proper care is as ignorant as a newborn caveman.

. (0)
Friday May 9, 2014, 5:32 am

Past Member (0)
Friday May 9, 2014, 10:59 am
The courts, government, etc should know that if a person is mentally ill they belong in a hospital for care which helps make someone better, and a prison is for punishing. Mental illness is not a crime or something that a person did wrong. No wonder our prisons are overcrowded.

JL A (281)
Friday May 9, 2014, 8:15 pm
This along with inadequate care is why CA's prisons ended up on the route of federal court oversight

Wendy H (54)
Sunday May 11, 2014, 8:15 am
Thank you for posting

Rose Becke (141)
Monday May 12, 2014, 3:09 am
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Society & Culture

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.