Norris C. Land Professor Brinkley
November 25, 2013
There are numerous problems being faced by Correctional Institutions when it comes to the care of the mentally ill in prisons. I believe one of the primary problems is the inadequate training of the prison staff to understand the problem and how to care for these individuals. So instead of obtaining the much needed training or making this training a prerequisite and even mandatory, the staff is using segregation as a way to just “hide” them so they don’t have to deal with them. Are our prisons' rehabilitative services set up to provide comprehensive mental health and psychiatric programs to deal with the increasing population with such severe psychopathology and impairment? Shouldn't standards of care of psychiatric disorders be respected in the correctional setting as they are in other community provider settings? Shouldn't inmates have access to the same standard of treatment consistent with the principle of equivalence? Historically, the departments of corrections, employing their own staff and clinics, directly administered mental health and medical care to offenders. I see the lack of qualified health care professionals to work in prisons as a major problem in this system!
The history of corrections mental health care had involved the community at large, because many of the mentally ill inmates enter the correctional systems after being failed by community-based mental health facilities. Back in the early 1900s most of the mentally ill people in our society were being treated through state-operated and funded mental health facilities. However, in recent years many of those facilities have closed down with the belief that those with mental health problems could be adequately cared for through community resources. Not! Today, as much as 80% of the former state-operated mental health facilities have been closed down! Prisons are not even close to being adequately funded or staffed to care for all of these inmates with assorted mental health problems, so many still do not receive the care they need to treat their illnesses, at least with what is acceptable by society. The demand today for mental health care in prisons far exceeds what the corrections system was originally designed to handle therefore, the training of the personnel to treat and work around them suffers. I say prison and jails seek additional mental health and COD (Co-occurring Disorders) training for custody staff and to train custody personnel with mental health personnel to the greatest extent possible.
Prisons and jails must have adequately trained personnel – both custody and mental health –to safely assess, house, program, treat and work with inmates who are mentally ill or have COD. These facilities cannot provide any of these care or services unless they have an adequate number of properly trained personnel. Recruiting mental health personnel is challenging and most facilities continue to have a critical need for additional mental health staff. Retaining staff and maximizing their effectiveness requires training and support for the difficult jobs they do. It is critical that custody staff be trained to interact with mentally ill inmates just as they are trained to interact and work with all other inmate populations. Mental health staff should receive forensic training to give them a framework for working in the custody environment. I can’t stress this enough, it should be mandatory that anyone working in this environment seek additional, mental health and COD training for custody staff and to train custody personnel with mental health personnel to the greatest extent possible. Custody staff must be trained to interact with mentally ill inmates just as they are trained to interact and work with all other inmate populations. Mental health staff should receive