Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2011-12

Source: Jennifer Bronson and Marcus Berzofsky, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 250612, June 2017

From the press release:
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a study today that revealed 14 percent of state and federal prisoners and 26 percent of jail inmates reported experiences that met the threshold for serious psychological distress (SPD). In comparison, the BJS study found that one in 20 persons (5 percent) in the U.S. general population with similar sex, age, race and Hispanic origin characteristics met the threshold for SPD.

The data on the prison and jail inmates are from the BJS’s 2011-12 National Inmate Survey and the general population data are from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The NSDUH data were standardized to match the sex, age, race and Hispanic origin of the prison and jail populations.

The report examined the prevalence of mental health problems among inmates based on two indicators: self-reported experiences that met the threshold for SPD in the 30 days prior to the survey and having been told at any time in the past by a mental health professional that they had a mental health disorder.

Among the incarcerated population, the study also found that females in state and federal prisons reported experiencing feelings that met the threshold for SPD at higher rates (20 percent) than males (14 percent). In jails, 32 percent of females and 26 percent of males met the threshold for SPD. Similar to the pattern for SPD, two-thirds of female inmates in both prisons (66 percent) and jails (68 percent) had been told by a mental health professional that they had a mental health disorder, compared to around a third (33 percent) of male prisoners and 41 percent of male jail inmates.

Thirty-seven percent of state and federal prisoners had been told by a mental health professional in the past that they had a mental health disorder. The most common disorder was a major depressive disorder (24 percent), followed by a bipolar disorder (18 percent), post-traumatic stress or personality disorder (13 percent) and schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder (9 percent).

Among jail inmates, 44 percent had been told in the past that they had a mental health disorder. Nearly a third had been told that they had major depressive disorder and a quarter had been told they had bipolar disorder.

Among inmates who met the threshold for SPD, more than half (54 percent) of prisoners and a third (35 percent) of jail inmates had received mental health treatment since admission to their current facility. About three-quarters of prisoners (74 percent) and jail inmates (73 percent) who met the threshold for SPD said they had received mental health treatment at some time in their life. Treatment included prescription medication, counseling or therapy, or both…..