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They are neglected, accused of malingering, treated as disciplinary problems.Without the necessary care, mentally ill prisoners suffer painful symptoms and their conditions can deteriorate.The current fiscal crisis in states across the country also threatens the gains that have been made.Our research also indicates the persistence in many prisons of deep-rooted patterns of neglect, mistreatment, and even cavalier disregard for the well-being of vulnerable and sick human beings."It is deplorable and outrageous that this state's prisons appear to have become a repository for a great number of its mentally ill citizens.Persons who, with psychiatric care, could fit well into society, are instead locked away, to become wards of the state's penal system.In the United States, there are three times more mentally ill people in prisons than in mental health hospitals, and prisoners have rates of mental illness that are two to four times greater than the rates of members of the general public.While there has been extensive documentation of the growing presence of the mentally ill in prison, little has been written about their fate behind bars.
We identify the mentally ill in prison - their numbers, the nature of their illnesses, and the reasons for their incarceration. We review their access to mental health services and the treatment they receive.
A federal district judge, referring in 1999 to conditions in Texas' prisons, made an observation that is still too widely applicable: Whether because of a lack of resources, a misconception of the reality of psychological pain, the inherent callousness of the bureaucracy, or officials' blind faith in their own policies, the [corrections department] has knowingly turned its back on this most needy segment of its population.