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FRONTLINE
A CASE OF INSANITY

The Jailed and Imprisoned Mentally Ill
Since 1999, the Department of Justice has released two reports dealing with the issue of mentally ill inmates. It found that fully 16 percent of the people in the nation's corrections systems were mentally ill, but that only 60 percent of those reported receiving any mental health treatment. Below are highlights of the reports, plus links to three studies that analyze the problem and suggest reforms.

At midyear 1998, there were over a quarter of a million mentally ill people incarcerated in prison or jail. An estimated 283,800 inmates -- or 16 percent of all incarcerated individuals -- reported either a mental condition or an overnight stay in a mental hospital, and were identified as mentally ill.

Only 60 percent of the mentally ill in state and federal prisons reported receiving mental health treatment since being incarcerated.

• About two-thirds of the inmates in state facilities who receive counseling or psychotropic medications were in facilities that didn't specialize in providing mental health services in confinement.

Half of the mentally ill inmates in state and federal facilities reported having three or more prior sentences.

Mentally ill state prison inmates were more than twice as likely as other inmates to report living on the street or in a shelter within the last 12 months.

Offenders between the ages of 45 and 54 were most likely to be identified as mentally ill.

Mentally ill inmates were more likely than others to have been convicted of a violent offense (murder, sexual assault, robbery, or assault). Thirty-three percent of federal inmates identified as mentally ill had been convicted of a violent offense, compared to 13 percent of other inmates. In state facilities, 53 percent of mentally ill inmates had been convicted of a violent offensel, compared to 46 percent of other inmates.

Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers," July 1999; Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Mental Health Treatment in State Prisons, 2000," July 2001


: Department of Justice Statistics

: Analyses & Recommendations


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