Prisons play home to 10 times more mentally ill Americans than state psychiatric hospitals. Behavioral health regression is the norm as the mentally ill have a different way of processing the experience than the general prison population. That situation has recently been deemed unconstitutional.
There were approximately 356,270 inmates suffering from behavioral issues in 2012. Most of them do not receive the proper care in order to manage their conditions. As a result, they are often worse after the experience.
In California, the problem is so severe a federal judge ruled the treatment of mental ill inmates violates the Constitutional. There was a particular emphasis on the use of pepper spray and isolation as cruel and unusual punishment.
Both tools are commonly used to punish and control inmates in the general population. However, videotapes showed prison guards flooding the cells of mentally ill inmates with chemical grenades and pepper spray backed by a soundtrack of screaming.
Additionally, the case demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement could result in serious psychological harm.
Despite most correctional facilities not having the equipment or abilities to make improvements, they are responsible for managing the problem. Plus, they are not able to dole out psychiatric medications.
A state survey called “The Treatment of Persons With Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails,” suggest overhauling the current system of laws and practices focusing on treatment. The current system requires jail officials to house the ill even though they do not have the skill set necessary for effective rehabilitation.
For centuries, the afflicted has been hidden away as a quick fix. According to the report, maintaining a functioning public mental health system and dealing with America’s mental health crisis is the ultimate solution.