Federal Report’s Scathing Critique of Prison System’s Treatment of Mentally Ill

The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General recently released a report that heavily criticized the prison system’s treatment of mentally ill inmates.

There have been rumors circulating for years that prison systems from across the country were providing inadequate accommodations to mentally ill inmates. Other detractors argued that inmates were becoming more mentally ill due to the pressures of living behind bars and denied access to therapies and medications that might alleviate some of the mentally ill patients’ suffering.

The Department of Justice’s report, though, homed in on a prison in Pennsylvania for its analysis. The report noted the pending lawsuit against a Lewisburg prison and went on to claim that this prison had a number of lawsuits against it. The lawsuits were filed against the prison for the prison’s deficient mental health services.

The Department of Justice’s report also indicted the Bureau of Prisons more broadly by alleging that the Bureau of Prisons condoned the practice of keeping mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement for extended periods of time. This practice could be considered very detrimental to mentally ill inmates psychology well-being since keeping these kinds of inmates in solitary confinement has been shown to result in poorer mental-health outcomes over the long term.

The Bureau of Prisons was also called into question for the size of its solitary confinement cells. The Department of Justice considered these cells too small for housing inmates. Also at issue was the fact that many overcrowded prisons have resorted to cramming in multiple mentally ill inmates in the same small cell.

The issue of overcrowding is perhaps more pernicious since overcrowding has been associated with greater prison violence and even a greater number of prison deaths. The risks are that much higher with mentally ill inmates denied proper treatment or medication.