Sen.Durbin.jpgWith one psychiatrist for every 1,000 inmates, and more than two dozen current investigations into civil rights violations, America faces a human rights crisis in its jails and prisons. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) called current practices of incarcerating people with a mental illness "loathsome, indefensible." Durbin chaired yesterday's congressional hearings, "Human Rights at Home: Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons and Jails."

The United States has the world's highest rate of putting people behind bars, and in the federal prisons, 45 percent of them have a mental illness. The rates are higher in state prisons (56%), and local jails (64%) said Sen. Durbin who lamented the country has taken a "step backward in time." He noted a "growing public revulsion."

Testimony of seven witnesses spelled out details, starting with the intake of inmates who have a mental illness or substance use disorder. Also noted are:

    •solitary confinement for symptomatic behavior;
    •lack of on-site psychiatrists;
    •revolving doors of psychologists and psychiatrists;
    •high rates of suicide;
    •the transfer of youngsters to juvenile justice system to enable them to receive mental health treatment.

The federal prisons spend $11.5 million on psychotropic drugs, about 18 percent of their drug budget, said Harley Lappin during a question and answer period. Lappin is the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Still, barely half of the 30,000 mentally ill inmates are receiving medication, and still fewer get other types of treatment. "Good drug treatment programs make big differences in people's lives" observed Sen. Tom Coburn.

A two-hour webcast is available (perhaps temporarily), as is testimony at the website of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Comments (2)

Thank you for sharing this info. This is shameful! What can we do to help stop this and do the right thing??
Karen A. Smith

Posted by Karen | September 16, 2009 10:43 PM

My son is mentally ill and he's been in prison for 5years and the only medicine the prison offers psychotic drugs but theres nothing for the inmates with depession or bi-polar. prison only offers counceling.

Posted by pamskater1 | December 19, 2010 7:36 PM
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