Critical Issues - Mental Illnesses

From: National Corrections Journal, 174463, July 1999


Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report
Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers

Paula M. Ditton, BJS Statistician

At midyear 1998, an estimated 283,800 mentally ill offenders were incarcerated in the Nation's prisons and jails. In recent surveys completed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16 % of State prison inmates, 7% of Federal inmates, and 16% of those in local jails reported either a mental condition or an overnight stay in a mental hospital. About 16%, or an estimated 547,800 probationers, said they had had a mental condition or stayed overnight in a mental hospital at some point in their lifetime.

Based on information from personal interviews, State prison inmates with a mental condition were more likely than other inmates to be incarcerated for a violent offense (53% compared to 46%); more likely than other inmates to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the current offense (59% compared to 51%); and more than twice as likely as other inmates to have been homeless in the 12 months prior to their arrest (20% compared to 9%). Over three-quarters of mentally ill inmates had been sentenced to time in prison or jail or on probation at least once prior to the current sentence.

Over 30% of male mentally ill inmates and 78% of females reported prior physical or sexual abuse. Since admission 61% of mentally ill inmates in State prison and 41% in local jails reported they had received treatment for a mental condition in the form of counseling, medication, or other mental health services.

 Highlights

Over a quarter million mentally ill incarcerated in prison or jail:

Reported a . . .

State prison

Federal prison

Jail

Probation

Mental or emotional condition

10.1%

4.8%

10.5%

10.5%

Overnight stay in a mental hospital

10.7%

4.7%

10.2%

8.2%

Estimated to be mentally ill*

16.2%

7.4%

16.3%

16.3%

*Reported either a mental or emotional condition or an overnight stay in a mental hospital or program.

About 10% of prison and jail inmates reported a mental or emotional condition; and 10% said they had stayed overnight in a mental hospital or program.

Together, 16% or an estimated 283,800 inmates reported either a mental condition or an overnight stay in a mental hospital, and were identified as mentally ill.

Mentally ill inmates were more likely than others to be in prison for a violent offense.

State prisoners

Offense

Mentally ill inmates

Other inmates

Violent

52.9%

46.1%

Property

24.4%

21.5%

Drug

12.8%

22.2%

Public-order

9.9%

9.8%

Criminal history

Mentally ill inmates

Other inmates

None

18.8%

21.2%

Priors

81.2%

78.8%

About 53% of mentally ill patients were in prison for a violent offense, compared to 46% of other inmates.

Mentally ill offenders were less likely than others to be incarcerated for a drug-related offense (13% versus 22%).

Nearly 6 in 10 mentally ill offenders reported they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their current offense.

State Prisoners

Mental Health Treatment since Admission

State Prison

Jail

Any treatment

60.5%

40.9%

Medication

50.1%

34.1%

Counseling

44.1%

16.2%

Six in ten metally ill State inmates reported receiving mental treatment since admission to prison.

Mental Illnesses Mental Illnesses

 

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