Thursday, September 07, 2006

Half of prison inmates experience mental problems

Via Rep Peña, the Justice Department yesterday published a new study finding that a majority of inmates in US prisons and jails have mental health problem (see the DoJ press release), "including 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners and 64 percent of local jail inmates." Reported DoJ:
  • 54 percent of local jail inmates had symptoms of mania, 30 percent major depression and 24 percent psychotic disorder, such as delusions or hallucinations.
  • 43 percent of state prisoners had symptoms of mania, 23 percent major depression and 15 percent psychotic disorder.
  • 35 percent of federal prisoners had symptoms of mania, 16 percent major depression and 10 percent psychotic disorder.
It's interesting to me that local jails have the highest percentage of people with mental health problems. I'm not sure I understand why. Any reader thoughts on the subject would be welcome.

UPDATE: A commenter from Sentencing Law and Policy blog rightly points out: "Look closley at the methodology of this study -- it's poor. This is similiar to other studies by DOJ on this topic. For instance, there is no diagnosis in the DSM for "mania" -- mania is a symptom of bi-polar disorder, but not a diagnosis itself. Plus, any DSM diagnosis was allowed (but not via a SCID interview, but through self-report). I could go on and on..."

He's right, IMO. That number sounded high when I reported it. In Texas, to my knowledge, we don't have great statistics on this subject, but estimates I've heard range from 16-22% of inmates having "serious mental illness" of the type that can be diagnosed by a mental health professional - self-reported symptoms of "mania," as in the DoJ study, capture a much broader but less well defined pool of folks.

RELATED: For a grim read, see this report from 2002 (pdf) on how Texas uses administrative segregation - i.e., ad-seg, or 23-hour per day solitary confinement - for some mentally ill inmates literally for years. It was compiled by an expert hired as part of the denouement of the Ruiz litigation.

5 comments:

markm said...

Only local jails get the ones that aren't really criminals, but due to general looniness violate regulations and deal poorly with the police.

Shaine Mata said...

I would agree that those in local jails would be there for "dumb" things they did and got caught, like breaking a window, slashing tires, getting in a brawl, or public intoxication, among others. Perhaps some seek help after their first encounter with the (local) law?

roy owens said...

Stress can overwhelm the mind. Being locked in a cage with criminals means there is no safe place to sleep, and that the threat of maiming and murder is always present. Jails are also noisy, to the extent that few people ever get decent sleep. Sleep-deprivation stresses the entire body. So does caging.

The surprise is that anyone could endure this torment for long. I wonder whether those figures are undercounts.

800 pound gorilla said...

Actually jails are the habitat of first time offenders. They're not really criminally oriented. They feel that their imprisonment is unfair and helpless against "the system". Those who are in state and federal prisons have had time to adjust psychologically. It's just part of their lives by then. It's far less stressful. They expect dehumanizing attitudes.

Joan said...

Jails are the worst place to be, over time they will get mental illness of some kind for being there without any outside activities.

If you insolate yourself an a small room for a month you will get crazy or will have some kind of anormal behaviour when you go out.

health disorders