Are Prisons Becoming Asylums?

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Frontline has done so many fascinating documentaries for PBS and the latest is no exception. It's called "The New Asylums" and explores the American prison system and asks why there are so many mentally ill inmates in prison. Although a little less than 55,000 Americans receive treatment in psychiatric wards, almost ten times that many mentally ill adults are in jails and prisons across the country. Here's a bit from the Frontline website:

Of the nearly 2 million inmates being held in prisons and jails across the country, experts believe nearly 500,000 are mentally ill. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), 16 percent of the prison population can be classified as severely mentally ill, meaning that they fit the psychiatric classification for illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder. According to staff at city and community jails, 25 percent of the jail population is severely mentally ill. However, when other mental illnesses, such as anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and depression, are included, the numbers are much higher, and NAMI puts the number of inmates suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse the percentage at well over 50 percent.

You can watch the full program online.

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June 23, 2006 - 1:32am
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