Mental health

Mental health in corrections


Mental illness is especially prevalent in prison populations, by far exceeding the rate of mental disorders in the general population; this is a global and complex challenge that requires a comprehensive approach.

It has been widely reported that prisoners have increased rates of psychiatric disorders comparing to the general population, including psychosis, depression, personality disorders and substance addictions. Such are risk factors for high suicide rates, premature mortality upon release and increased recidivism. Prisoners seldom have just one condition as far as mental health is concerned, and sufferers often find that their mental health problems are exacerbated by their other problems or even caused by them.

In order to address the complexity of the issue, comprehensive solutions are needed as well. Such complex practices include the use of multidisciplinary teams not only directly linked to health, but holistically focused on the individual and his/her physical, social psychological, and spiritual needs.

One in seven prisoners has depression or psychosis and treatment may confer additional benefits such as reducing the risks of suicide and self-harm within custody, and suicide and drug-related deaths on release, as well as reoffending. Ultimately, because it will reduce recidivism rates, proper and thorough treatment of mentally ill inmates has a large impact on public safety.

At IPS, we support governments to define policies and practices that help them increase the response to mental health disorders within prisons by enhancing the competences of management and frontline staff to address prisoners’ mental health needs and the special needs of older prisoners and cooperation with external specialized organizations.