Category Archives: Corrections

Mental Disorders Among Criminal Offenders: A Review of the Literature

Source: Emily D. Gottfried, Sheresa C. Christopher, Journal of Correctional Health Care, Vol. 23 Issue 3, July 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines mental illness among adult, juvenile, male, female, jail, and prison inmates. It also explores the way in which mental health diagnoses impact offending and violent behavior. A review of literature pertaining to differences between the genders and age of offenders suggests that psychiatric disorders are more common among criminal offenders than the population at large. Furthermore, it appears that many mentally ill offenders do not receive sufficient treatment during their incarcerations and that barriers inherent to incarceration prevent adequate treatment of mental illnesses.

‘Giving Help and Not Asking for It’: Inside the Mental Health of First Responders

Source: Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, Governing, July 7, 2017

Teaching cops, firefighters and prison workers to recognize and know how to handle people with mental illness is a big part of the efforts to reduce suffering and death at the hands of law enforcement. Less talked about is the mental health of the cops, firefighters and prison workers themselves. ….

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…..

America’s mass incarceration problem in 5 charts – or, why Sessions shouldn’t bring back mandatory minimums

Source: Tanya Golash-Boza, The Conversation, May 29, 2017

Today, the United States is a world leader in incarceration, but this has not always been the case.

For most of the 20th century, the U.S. incarcerated about 100 people per 100,000 residents – below the current world average. However, starting in 1972, our incarceration rate began to increase steadily. By 2008, we reached a peak rate of 760 incarcerated persons per 100,000 residents.

The increase in incarceration cannot be explained by a rise in crime, as crime rates fluctuate independently of incarceration rates. Incarceration rates soared because laws changed, making a wider variety of crimes punishable by incarceration and lengthening sentences.

This sharp increase was driven in part by the implementation of mandatory minimums for drug offenses, starting in the 1980s. These laws demand strict penalties for all offenders in federal courts, no matter the extenuating circumstances.

The Obama administration took some measures to roll back these mandatory minimums. In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo asking prosecutors to prosecute crimes with mandatory minimum sentences only for the worst offenders.

Earlier this month, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that memo and issued his own, which requires prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious” offense. The punitive sentiment behind Sessions’ memo is a throwback to our failed experiment in mass incarceration in the 1980s and ‘90’s…..

Measures for Justice

Source: Measures for Justice (MFJ), 2017

Measuring justice, one county at a time.
Assessing and comparing the performance of the entire U.S. criminal justice system.

THE PROBLEM
No one really knows how well our entire criminal justice system is working on the county level.

THE SOLUTION
Measures for Justice gathers criminal justice data at the county level and uses them to populate performance Measures that address:
Public Safety, Fair Process, Fiscal Responsibility

The Measures track how criminal cases are being handled at the county level from arrest to post-conviction. They are designed to increase the transparency of local justice systems and enable more informed discussions.

All of our Measures and analyses present data at the county level and are available for free to the public on a web-based Data Portal. The Portal is searchable and can be configured to break down performance data across multiple factors including race/ethnicity, sex, indigent status, age, offense type, offense severity, court type, and attorney type. The Portal also allows for county-to-county comparison within and across states.

The Price of Prisons: Examining State Spending Trends, 2010 – 2015

Source: Chris Mai and Ram Subramanian, Vera Institute of Justice, May 2017

From the overview:
From the early 1970s into the new millennium, the U.S. prison population experienced unprecedented growth, which had a direct influence on state budgets. In recent years, however, lawmakers in nearly every state and from across the political spectrum have enacted new laws to reduce prison populations and spending. This report, which builds upon the information found in Vera’s 2012 publication The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers, found that 13 states were successful in reducing both population and spending. However, no single reason explains a rise or fall in spending; instead, a multitude of factors push and pull expenditures in different directions. Read the report and explore our interactive data visualization below to learn more.
Related:
Interactive Data Visualization
Fact Sheet

Reducing the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jail: Six Questions County Leaders Need to Ask

Source: Risë Haneberg, Dr. Tony Fabelo, Dr. Fred Osher, and Michael Thompson, Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails, sponsored by the National Association of Counties, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, and The Council of State Governments Justice Center, January 2017

From the summary:
Reducing the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jail: Six Questions County Leaders Need to Ask serves as a blueprint for counties to assess their existing efforts to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders in jail by considering specific questions and progress-tracking measures. The report also informs the initiative’s approach to technical assistance.

Here are the six questions county leaders need to ask:

Is your leadership committed?
Do you have timely screening and assessment?
Do you have baseline data?
Have you conducted a comprehensive process analysis and service inventory?
Have you prioritized policy, practice, and funding?
Do you track progress?

The negative impact of prison work on sleep health

Source: Lois James, Natalie Todak, Suzanne Best, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 60 no. 5, May 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives
To examine the prevalence of sleep disorders, deprivation, and quality in a sample of prison employees, and investigate the relationship between exposure to work-related critical incidents and sleep.

Methods
We surveyed 355 Washington State Department of Corrections employees. The survey included the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index and the Critical Incident History Questionnaire.

Results
We found 28% and 45% of the sample reported suffering from Apnea and insomnia, respectively. Over half of the sample reporting sleeping less than 2 h between shifts and being constantly fatigued. We found significant associations between exposure to critical incidents and sleep problems.

Conclusions
Prison workers are in desperate need of help to improve their sleep. Our findings suggest the importance of continued investigation of prison worker sleep health using objective measures, toward the development of programs for improving sleep and resilience to critical incidents and stress.

Medical Parole and Aging Prisoners: A Qualitative Study

Source: George Pro, Miesha Marzell, Journal of Correctional Health Care, Online First, First published March 30, 3017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The population of geriatric prisoners in the United States will reach unprecedented levels in the coming decades. Geriatric prisoners are at increased risk for deteriorating health and experience the onset of disease earlier than the aging population at large. Medical parole is an underutilized program that allows aging prisoners to transition to community-based health care. This article presents original key informant interview data and analysis of the perceptions of medical parole. Three dominant themes emerged: (1) drugs and nonviolent crimes; (2) politics, costs, and consequences; and (3) quality of health care and sense of security in prison. Participants rejected the possibility that medical care provided is below the clinical standard or is the cause of geriatric prisoners’ deteriorating health and consistently implied that medical care at this prison is better than most Americans receive. Participants perceived their careers more as contributions to public health than criminal justice.

Abolishing Immigration Prisons

Source: César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Boston University Law Review, Vol. 97, No. 245, 2017

From the abstract:
The United States has a long and inglorious history of coercive state practices of social control that are motivated, explicitly or implicitly, by race. From chattel slavery to modern incarceration, state actors have regularly marginalized, demonized, and exploited people racialized as nonwhite. Immigration imprisonment—the practice of confining people because of a suspected or confirmed immigration law violation—fits neatly into this ignoble tradition. The United States’ half million immigration prisoners, who are overwhelmingly Latino, were almost all pushed and pulled to leave their countries of origin in part by policies promoted or supported by the United States. Yet, once here, Latin American migrants are relegated to a legal system that treats them as confineable based merely on their status.

Even worse is that the practice of immigration imprisonment, as designed and operated, has stripped migrants of their inherent dignity as humans and has instead commodified them into a source of revenue. For immigration prisoners, the prison operates as a means of segregation and stigmatization: immigration prisoners are segregated from the political community and perceived to be dangerous. For other migrants who, for the time being at least, avoid imprisonment, the prison symbolizes the state’s brute power. For the vast network of interested parties who have invested deeply in immigration imprisonment, the prison marks the location of production. Paid according to the number of people locked up, private prisons and local governments profit from human bondage. Meanwhile, opportunistic politicians reap political rewards by pointing to barbed wire perimeters and sizeable prison populations as evidence of their efforts to protect the nation.

This Article is the first to argue that immigration imprisonment is inherently indefensible and should be abolished. The United States should instead adopt an alternative moral framework of migrants and migration that is grounded in history and attuned to human fallibility. Doing so will help discourage harmful immigration rhetoric steeped in myths of migrant criminality and will foster better understanding of migrants and their reasons for coming to the United States.