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Sunday, December 18, 2016

There may be no worse place for mentally ill people to receive treatment than prison

By The Spotlight Team
The Boston Globe
Originally posted November 25, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Last year, more than 15,000 prisoners walked out of Massachusetts jails and prisons. More than one-third suffer from mental illness; more than half have a history of addiction. Thousands are coping with both kinds of disorders, their risk of problems amplified as they reenter society.

Within three years of being released, 37 percent of inmates who leave state prisons with mental illnesses are locked up again, compared with 30 percent of those who do not have mental health problems, according to a Department of Correction analysis of 2012 releases. Inmates battling addiction fare worse: About half are convicted of a new crime within three years, according to one state study. And inmates with a “dual diagnosis” of addiction and mental illness, like Nick Lynch, do the worst of all, national studies show.

Despite the vast need — and the potential payoff in reduced recidivism — mental health and substance abuse treatment for many Massachusetts inmates is chronically undermined by clinician shortages, shrinking access to medication, and the widespread use of segregation as discipline. The prison environment itself is a major obstacle to treatment: In a culture ruled by aggression and fear, the trust and openness required for therapy are exponentially harder to achieve.

And when their incarcerations end, many mentally ill and drug-addicted prisoners are sent back into the world without basic tools they need to succeed, such as ready access to medication, addiction counseling, or adequate support and oversight. Such omissions can be critical: The Harvard-led Boston Reentry Study found in 2014 that inmates with a mix of mental illness and addiction are significantly less likely than others to find stable housing, work income, and family support in the critical initial period after leaving prison, leaving them insecure, isolated, and at risk of falling into “diminished mental health, drug use and relapse.”

The article is here.