Prison Has Replaced Psychiatric Hospitals

Imprisioned Mentally Ill

Stephanie Mencimer passes along some depressing statistics:

According to a new report from the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit advocacy organization, the United States has fully returned to the 18th-century model of incarcerating the mentally ill in correctional institutions rather than treating them in health care facilities like any other sick people. In 2012, there were roughly 356,268 inmates with severe mental illnesses in prisons and jails, while only 35,000 people with the same diseases were in state psychiatric hospitals.

The numbers of incarcerated mentally ill have been growing, and TAC reports that their treatment in the corrections system is nothing less than abominable. Mentally ill inmates are more likely to become the victims of sexual assault and abuse. They’re also overrepresented in solitary confinement, and they are much more likely than other prisoners to commit suicide.

Sarah Kliff flags the same report and puts it in context:

In 1955, public psychiatric hospitals held 558,992 patients. Over the past 60 years, there’s been a nationwide movement for deinstitutionalization: moving mental health patients out of long-stay psychiatric facilities and into more community-based treatment centers. The main goal of deinstitutionalization, which began in the late 1950s, was to get patients out of large, public institutions where they were largely hidden from public view. Instead, the hope was to give mentally health patients the treatment they needed to integrate into the community, with a support system that encouraged access to jobs and housing.