TEN TIMES as many mentally ill people in U.S. prisons than in hospitals
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/9/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Treatment of the mentally ill in the United States remains a long covered-up topic. The nation is lacking in qualified mental hospitals, or those trained to deal with its treatment. In order to keep some semblance of order, the "quick fix" of incarcerating an individual with psychological issues seems the most expedient option. A scathing new report, however, has found that there are now TEN TIMES as many mentally ill people in prison than there are in psychological hospitals.
Training programs for police officers who come in contact with people with severe mental illnesses are needed to recognize the signs and symptoms to respond appropriately.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The situation is a neglectful one. The mentally ill person in prison often sees their condition worsen, and are in much worse shape when they are eventually released from incarceration.
The report, entitled "The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails," is calling for reform of laws and practices focused on the treatment of mental illness. The report also encourages studies to compare the true cost of housing individuals in prisons or jails as opposed to treating them in the community.
The report, released by the Treatment Advocacy Center, is 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, says.
There were an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illnesses in U.S. prisons and jails in 2012. In stark contrast, 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.
Imprisonment of these individuals leads to increased taxpayer costs in the long run, according to the report. Mentally ill prisoners also have higher rates of recidivism.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers alternatives to incarceration on its website. The alliance suggests training programs for police officers. Policemen who come in contact with people with severe mental illnesses need 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 says.
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