Published on: Wednesday, November 21, 2018

In a new article titled Treatment Denied: The Mental Health Crisis In Federal Prison, the Marshall Project reports that the Bureau of Prisons is helping fewer inmates with psychiatric services, despite setting higher standards for psychiatric care.  Here are some excerpts:

In 2014, amid mounting criticism and legal pressure, the Federal Bureau of Prisons imposed a new policy promising better care and oversight for inmates with mental-health issues. But data obtained by the Marshall Project through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that instead of expanding treatment, the bureau has lowered the number of inmates designated for higher care levels by more than 35 percent. Increasingly, prison staff are determining that prisoners—some with long histories of psychiatric problems—don’t require any routine care at all.

As of February, the Bureau of Prisons classified just 3 percent of inmates as having a mental illness serious enough to require regular treatment. By comparison, more than 30 percent of those incarcerated in California state prisons receive care for a “serious mental disorder.” In New York, 21 percent of inmates are on the mental-health caseload. Texas prisons provide treatment for roughly 20 percent.

A review of court documents and inmates’ medical records, along with interviews of former prison psychologists, revealed that although the Bureau of Prisons changed its rules, officials did not add the resources needed to implement them, creating an incentive for employees to downgrade inmates to lower care levels.  The Training Division offers resources about the Bureau of prisons, including practice guides such as Practical Tips If Your Client Faces Incarceration in Federal Prison, How Federal Prisoners Are Placed: Shedding Light on the BOP’s Inmate Classification and Designation Process, and Your Client Will Not Get Mental Health Treatment in Prison: A Primer on How to Back Up That Claim, among many others.