Image via Pinterest
By Kevin M. Haynes
While at least half of all prisoners have some mental health concerns, about 10 to 25 percent of U.S. prisoners suffer from serious mental illnesses, such as major affective disorders or schizophrenia. That compares with an average rate of about 5 percent for serious mental illness in the U.S. population in general.
I believe that if more inmates were given psychological evaluations on a regular basis, the above statistics would definitely be much higher. Those statistics only account for those who were diagnosed prior to being imprisoned and those who were diagnosed only after giving the Department a severe enough reason to give them a psychological evaluation.
Inmates who never showed signs of mental illness are losing their minds in prison while serving their time. The overuse of solitary confinement, overcrowding and other inhumane conditions need to be changed so inmates don’t return home worse off, resulting in some people going back to prisons and jails. Can you imagine the effect that this type treatment has on someone’s mental state?
In addition to the routine deprivations of prison there’s solitary confinement – which subjects offenders to mentally tarnishing environments and situations. It’s common practice for inmates to be housed in segregated areas of confinement for: 23 hours a day on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends. That, without programming or meaningful social interaction is hard on one’s mental health.
Solitary confinement is often referred to as the “bing”, “box”, “hole” or “shoe” and I know people who have entered confinement without symptoms of mental illness and become mentally ill while confined this way. When a prisoner is subjected to the sudden shock of military routines, and abuse of authority – the result is inmate: depression, paranoia, anti-social personality disorders, anxiety, and adjustment disorders, along with many more psychological disabilities.
Inhumane policies are driving our loved ones crazy. That’s why I recommend art therapy; inmate postcards. Solitary confinement affects the mentality of almost everyone that spends a significant amount of time within it – destructively. It isolates the mind, and then forcefully places the prisoner in an environment that is infested with negative influences, betrayal, oppression, and violence. Only a few and only the strong survive and lead productive lives – we need to protect the others.
Our loved ones shouldn’t have to come home with mental scars from a system that takes their mental health for granted. Instead, corrections should focus on rehabilitation and therapy so they can return home willing and able to succeed. Taxpayers pay for most prisons and communities suffer the most when inmates return from prison with mental issues.