By Chris Zoukis

Mental health disorders are common for prisoners. In fact, according to a 2012 study by the National Institutes of Health, 26 percent of prisoners identified as having a mental health disorder while only 18 percent of the general population identified as having a mental health disorder.

While the numbers may not say much, as one might well expect a prisoner to have more problems than are in society, these numbers tell a story with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences.

In fact, prisoners with a formal diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are 70 percent more likely to return to prison when compared to one who had not received any diagnosis. Additionally the recidivism rates soar to between 50 percent and 230 percent for previously incarcerated individuals.

With budget cuts, staff shortages, and lack of access to specialized medical experts, more and more of prisoners’ mental health disorders go untreated, in both state and federal prisons.

In 2004, the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities along with the Survey of Inmates in Federal Correctional Facilities, conducted a survey among males and females housed in state and federal prisons. The study included 14,499 participants in state prisons and 3,686 in federal prisons. What they found was 18 percent of individuals were taking medication for a mental health disorder at the time of their admission to prison. Only 52 percent of federal prisoners and 42 percent of state prisoners in that group received medications during their incarcerations.

A total of 211 male and 58 female state prisons, along with 32 male and 8 female federal prisons were included in this study.

Depression was the highest diagnosed disorder reported with mania, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder following.

State institutions had more reported mental health conditions with 26.2 percent of respondents receiving at least one diagnosis with a mental health disorder in their lifetime. 46 percent of federal prisoners compared to 41 percent of state prisoners used counseling services. 20 percent in both used self-help groups.

There is a direct correlation between mental health disorders and criminal behaviors. By treating our prisoners’ mental health conditions, the public stands to save costs dealing with high recidivism rates. Conditions in prison often lead to poor adjustment to life in prison. Lack of medical and mental health treatment often lead to increased risk of victimization and self-harm.

It’s clear we need to address this increasing problem within our nation’s prisons.

Source: www. sciencedaily.com

This article originally appeared in Prison Legal News in August 2016.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).