Mental Illness in the Incarcerated

Psychiatric disorders in the prison system of the United States is becoming an epidemic crisis. A population of 79,211 inmates were studied in order to determine if the presence of psychiatric disorders increased the risk of repeat incarcerations. The inmates were primarily male (87.2%), under 50 years of age (90.1%), currently in prison for a non violent crime (79.2%) and had a sentence of less than 2 years (60.1%). A diagnosis of a major depressive disorder including, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or non-schizophrenia psychotic disorders was concluded in 7,878 inmates.

These inmates had a significant increase in the risk of repeat incarcerations, specifically inmates with bipolar disorder were 3.3 times more likely to have multiple incarcerations.

Over 760,000 individuals were incarcerated in jail in 2006, creating a specific setting due to a diverse population of adults, creating the ideal environment to screen for mental illnesses between genders. Roughly 70% of the inmate population are suffering with an identifiable cognitive impairment, and suffer from psychiatric disorders. There were 360 male and 154 female inmates pre and post trial in the Washington DC county jail, that were invited to participate in this longitudinal study.

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Mental illness symptoms were measured using the PAI, a self reported assessment of psychopathology and personality. It was concluded that females suffer from anxiety and other related concerns, and a higher prevalence of PTSD suggesting that these women were victims of physical or sexual abuse. Additionally, it was concluded that male inmates experience significantly higher trauma related symptoms or BPD, and experience significant borderline personality symptoms.

Male jail inmates with an acute psychiatric illness were assessed in order to determine if exposures to stressful and/or traumatic lifetime events contributed to incarceration.

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A total of 65 males agreed to participate in the study, however only 48 continued with the study because 17 did not have the capacity to sign the informed consent form. Following the assessment a total of 56.3% of participants were admitted for suicidal or violent behavior, 39.6% for psychosis, and 4.2% for inability to care for themselves. Clinically 54.17% were diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, 20.83% with a mood disorder, 22.92% with adjustment disorder, and 2.08% with PTSD. Additionally, 81.2% (n=39) of inmates reported at least one life stressor, while 50% (n=24) reported two or more life stressors. Treatment approaches for trauma history is being implemented for all patients, properly care for each individual mentally ill inmate.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) had 416 offenders suffering from mental illnesses, female (n=149) and male (n=265), who were assessed to determine the probability of criminal thinking while incarcerated. It was believed that criminal behavior resulted primarily from the symptoms of the psychotic disorder they suffered from. The results concluded that 92% of participants were diagnosed with a serious mental illness, however, on the Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS) and Criminal Sentiments Scale-Modified (CSS-M) mentally disordered inmates scored roughly the same of non-mentally ill defenders. Indicating that mentally ill inmates engage in criminal thinking at the same rate as offenders who are not mentally ill.

Colorado offenders with a diagnosed mental illness (OMIs) were compared to offenders without a mental illness (nonOMIs) in administrative segregation (AS) and general population (GS) environments to determine the rate of segregation between groups. Participants were 17,393 adult inmates, which 92% were male, 46% were Caucasian, 31% were Hispanic, 20% were African American, 2% were Native American, and 1% were Asian. Four groups were created to assess inmates: (1) OMIs in administrative segregation (n=443), (2) OMIs in general population (GS) (n=3,802), (3) nonOMIs in AS (n=766), and (4) nonOMIs in GP (n=12,382). Significant group differences were found based on demographic characteristics, for instance, Caucasians were more likely to be OMIs, while inmates in AS were more likely to be Hispanic. Inmates in AS were generally younger and had less education that the inmates in GP, and nonOMIs in GP scored higher in overall intelligence than both OMIs groups. Additionally, it was noted that Hispanic gang members are put in AS at a higher rate then gang members of other ethnicities.

Data was obtained from 18,185 prisoners from both state (n=14,499) and federal (n=3,686) prisons, to examine the effectiveness of prison screening for mental health and medication continuity. The sample was primarily African American (40%), and male (93%). Inmates diagnosed with a mental illness at one point of there life concluded to be about 26%, while inmates who were taking medication due to the diagnosis was only 18%. Of the prison inmates who were medicated prior to admission, 50% of those inmates did not receive pharmacotherapy while in prison. Concluding that was a significant issue in the lack of medication continuity by medical professionals in prison. Additionally treatment plans are solely based on resources available to that prison, due to a limitation on financial resources. Inmates with a mental illness, who do not receive treatment while incarcerated are 50 to 230%  more likely to return to prison.

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Mental Illness in the Incarcerated. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from

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