Confronting the Challenge with Training: Managing Inmates with Mental Health Disorders

By Geiman, Diane | Corrections Today, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Confronting the Challenge with Training: Managing Inmates with Mental Health Disorders


Geiman, Diane, Corrections Today


The number of inmates with mental health disorders in correctional facilities throughout the country is growing at an alarming rate. The American Psychiatric Association found that "as many as one in five [offenders] was seriously mentally ill, with up to 5 percent being actively psychotic at any given moment." (1) The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that "more than half of all prison and jail inmates had a mental health problem." (2) Adding to the problem, these offenders often stay incarcerated longer than other offenders and usually commit crimes upon release, starting the criminal justice cycle again.

The number of inmates with mental health disorders has grown to the point where some experts believe that jails and prisons have taken on the roles played by psychiatric institutions. Judge Steve Leifman, testifying on the subject before the House of Representatives, said that "because of lack of access to community-based care, our police, correctional officers and courts have increasingly become the lone responders to people in crisis due to mental illnesses. In fact, jails and prisons in the United States now function as the largest psychiatric hospitals in the world." (3)

The consequences of placing offenders with mental health disorders in our nation's jails and prisons are not surprising. While some of these offenders can function adequately in the general population with outpatient treatment and occasional crisis intervention, most of them cannot. Kenneth Favor, author of Health Care Management Issues in Corrections, calls these latter offenders the "misfits" in the general population of jails and prisons. Because these vulnerable offenders may be traumatized by the stressful environment of corrections (e.g., crowding, constant noises, lack of privacy and strict rules) their symptoms may worsen. E. Fuller Torrey, a well-known research psychiatrist, said this of the plight of offenders with mental health disorders in correctional institutions:

  Being in jail or prison when your brain is working normally is, at
best, an unpleasant experience. Being in jail or prison when your brain
is playing tricks on you is often brutal ... These institutions have
rigid rules, both explicit and implicit, and a major purpose of
incarceration is to teach inmates how to follow such rules ... Because
of illogical thinking, delusions or auditory hallucinations, many of the
mentally ill cannot comprehend the rules of jails and prisons and this
has predictable, and sometimes tragic, consequences. (4)

The "predictable consequences" are the ones that correctional staff face on a daily basis, especially correctional officers on the front line. Mental illness can impair a person's ability to think, feel and behave normally. Consequently, offenders with mental health disorders may exhibit inappropriate behaviors such as annoying other offenders; bizarre behaviors such as having hallucinations or talking incoherently; and even life-threatening behaviors such as attempting suicide. Compounding the problem, offenders with mental health disorders may have difficulty understanding directions and rules and the consequences for failing to follow them. As Jeffrey Metzner of the University of Colorado's Health Sciences Center notes, "... prison rules don't mean much to someone hearing voices ... [he] may view a request to abide by that rule as part of a conspiracy directed against him." (5) Sometimes, the reactions of offenders with mental health disorders can create problems for staff and, in some cases, pose a risk to their safety. BJS found that offenders with mental health disorders are more likely to commit rule violations such as verbal abuse and physical assaults than other offenders. (6)

The Council of State Governments responded to the situation by undertaking a national, two-year effort to develop recommendations that local, state and federal policy-makers and criminal justice and mental health professionals could use to "improve the criminal justice response to people with mental illness. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Confronting the Challenge with Training: Managing Inmates with Mental Health Disorders
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.