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Prison inmates struggle with mental illness

Kaiser Health News story

Psychological disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder and trauma-related disorders, are rampant among inmates, and mental illness itself is a risk factor for landing in jail.  Images

“We’ve, frankly, criminalized the mentally ill, and used local jails as de facto mental health institutions,” said Alex Briscoe, the health director for Alameda County in northern California.

The statistics paint a stark picture, with mental illness affecting a greater percentage of jailed women than men:

  • In state prisons, 73 percent of women and 55 of men have at least one mental health problem
  • In federal prisons, 61 percent of women and 44 percent of men
  • In local jails, 75 percent of women and 63 percent of men

The Affordable Care Act—and its expansion of Medicaid—is expected to connect previously uninsured ex-offenders with medical care and mental health treatment. But in the short term, jails and prisons remain the places where those with severe psychosis are housed: There are now three times more people with serious mental illness incarcerated in the United States than in hospitals, and the types of behavioral and mental health problems among inmates are becoming more severe. Read more. 

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