Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis behind Bars and What We Must Do about It

Synopsis

VIOLENCE. BRUTALITY. RAPE. OVERCROWDING. ISOLATION. DEPRESSION. SCHIZOPHRENIA. DELUSIONS. HALLUCINATIONS. SUICIDE. PRISON MADNESS Our correctional facilities have become inadequate and ill-prepared psychiatric wards-the largest purveyors of mental health services in the United States today. This country's correctional system houses well over a quarter of a million men and women who require mental health treatment. An unprecedented number of prisoners enter the system already in need of psychiatric attention, and countless others suffer emotional breakdowns inside as a result of the brutal, cruel, and inhumane treatment experienced behind bars. In prison, these men and women are subjected to ridicule, abuse, and punitive policies that worsen their psychiatric disorders and exacerbate an already explosive situation. Without adequate treatment, many wind up in punitive solitary confinement or subjecting themselves to a self-imposed isolation in their own cells-where their condition deteriorates. The result is a major hazard, not only to the prison population and their caretakers, but once released, these brutalized and broken individuals constitute a real and documented threat to our communities. Terry Kupers, an expert in the field of forensic psychiatry, not only exposes the sad fact that prisons, by design, fail miserably to correct, he also offers a prescription, A CALL TO ACTION for immediate prison reform. Kupers outlines successful programs throughout the United States and the world and makes practical recommendations, including guidelines for the upgrade and revitalization of rehabilitation programs and the development of comprehensive mental health services. Kupers' passionate plea will empower judges, lawmakers, mental health practitioners, and citizens to use their influence to put an end to prison crowding and STOP sending nonviolent and mentally disordered felons onto prison yards with murderers and rapists. Prison Madness signals a growing movement intent on exposing current prison policies and the treatment of mentally disordered prisoners as cruel and unusual punishment. A Disturbing and Shocking Expos¿-A Passionate Cry for Reform Prison Madness exposes the brutality and failure of today's correctional system-for all prisoners-but especially the incredible conditions endured by those suffering from serious mental disorders. "A passionately argued and brilliantly written wake-up call to America about the myriad ways our penal systems brutalize our entire culture. Dr. Kupers not only diagnoses the problem, he also offers a set of solutions. I hope this book will be read by all concerned citizens and voters, for it conveys truths that are vitally important to all of us."-James Gilligan, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and author of Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic "Dr. Kupers reminds us that cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of inmates-particularly those who are mentally ill-violates their rights, betrays our national commitment to decency, and jeopardizes the safety of our communities. A splendid book."-Jamie Fellner, associate counsel, Human Rights Watch "A chilling picture of how American prisons have become among the most barbaric in the world driving petty offenders and dangerous people alike into madness. We must consider the madness of a public policy that routinely turns nonviolent offenders into dangerous misfits who threaten our safety when released."-Joseph D. McNamara, research fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and retired police chief, San Jose, California "Prison Madness reveals the disturbing realities of prisons and jails as places of coerced refuge for poor and mentally disordered people. With this powerful and provocative analysis of the intersecting crises in the public mental health and prison systems, Terry Kupers shows us how to contest the racism and the criminalization of pov