mental illness in prison

below, we’ve curated virtually all of the research about the relationship between mental health and the criminal justice system available online. u.s. prisons and jails incarcerate a disproportionate amount of people who have a current or past mental health problem, and facilities are not meeting the demand for treatment. police are also often used to respond to mental health crises, despite their involvement frequently resulting in violence or incarceration. the research below expands on mental health policies, practices, and inequities affecting justice-involved people. we curate a searchable database of 3,600+ original research reports, organizing each entry by topic and adding brief summaries. the u.s. incarcerates 1.9 million people, more than any other country. where are they locked up and why? read our report.

we often talk about the disturbingly high numbers of people with mental health disorders locked up in prisons and jails. similarly, in a 2015 review of the research on the impact of prisons on mental health, separation from family and friends emerged as a major stressor for incarcerated people; it was also associated with psychological distress. in a 2003 study of incarcerated people in england, participants reported that lack of activity and mental stimulation leads to extreme stress, anger, and frustration.

the 2018 study from the university of georgia similarly found that overcrowding and punitiveness are correlated with depression and hostility. and the various stressors in a carceral environment also increase the chances of violence between incarcerated people. but the reality is that time spent in prisons and jails can create a host of collateral consequences that haunt individuals even after release.

mentally ill inmates are more likely to commit suicide. suicide is the leading cause of death in correctional facilities, and multiple studies indicate as many incarceration can trigger and worsen symptoms of mental illness — and those effects can last long after someone leaves the prison gates. across the nation, individuals with severe mental illness are three times more likely to be in a jail or prison than in a mental health facility, percentage of inmates with mental illness 2021, should mentally ill criminals go to jail, successful mental health programs in prisons, percentage of inmates with mental illness 2019.

about 74% of state prisoners and 76% of local jail inmates who had a mental health problem met criteria for substance dependence or abuse. mental illness rates are about 4 to 7 times more common in prison than in the community. the reasons for this are complex. yet people with mental illness are overrepresented in our nation’s jails and prisons. about two in five people who are incarcerated have a history of mental, bureau of justice statistics mental health, physical effects of imprisonment, physical effects of imprisonment, history of mental health treatment in prisons, what happens to schizophrenics in jail.

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