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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 75557 Find in a Library
Title: Responsibilities of the State for the Prevention and Treatment of Mental Illness Among Prisoners
Journal: Journal of Forensic Sciences  Volume:26  Issue:1  Dated:(January 1981)  Pages:134-141
Author(s): A F Leuchter
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 8
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Failure of the state to take reasonable steps to prevent and treat mental illness in prisoners may constitute cruel and unusual punishment, since imprisonment may cause or exacerbate mental problems, according to this paper.
Abstract: High incidence of mental illness among criminals can be attributed to the similarities between socioeconomic conditions that nurture criminal behavior and those that foster mental illness. However, many mentally ill individuals are not diagnosed during criminal justice proceedings. Furthermore, the evidence indicates that, for many inmates, conventional incarceration may be a factor in the precipitation or exacerbation of serious psychiatric disturbances which may produce long-lasting, or even lifelong, incapacity. Acute and dramatic changes in an individual's living conditions are associated with the onset of serious mental illness. Imprisonment may be viewed as such a change. Studies of prisoners of war released from North Vietnam, research personnel stationed at Antarctic scientific stations, and survivors of Nazi concentration camps establish a causal link between the stress of imprisonment and mental illness. The subjects in all three studies have been drawn from high socioeconomic classes, and thus generally lacking particular propensities to develop significant mental illness. Yet under conditions of extreme stress, large numbers of them developed significant mental problems. Therefore, it can be expected that those from low socioeconomic strata, or those who are otherwise predisposed to the development of mental illness, may develop problems in less stressful situations. Several court cases have dealt with the issue of the responsibility of the prison system to recognize and treat mental illness in inmates under the eighth amendment of the constitution. To comply with the amendment, a more humane environment for incarceration is needed, as well as a program to facilitate the adjustment of inmates to their incarceration. In addition, more research is needed to determine what type of psychiatric therapy is most appropriate to treat mental illness among prisoners and how such therapy can be delivered on a cost-effective basis. A review of several court decisions, statistical data, and 26 references are included.
Index Term(s): Correctional facilities; Facility conditions; Inmate Programs; Mental health services; Mentally ill offenders; Prisoner's rights; Right to treatment
Note: Presented in part at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, February 20-23, 1980.
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