Special Concerns for Prisoners with Mental Health Conditions
Prisoners with mental health conditions may have different needs than prisoners who don't have mental health conditions. Some things that are seen as necessary or normal in prisons can be detrimental to prisoners who have mental illnesses. Those with mental illnesses may also have additional needs that other inmates do not.
The most obvious difference in the needs of inmates with and without mental health conditions is the need for treatment. This can include therapeutic treatment, medications, and hospitalization in extreme cases. Prisons should be able to provide care below the level of hospitalization. Some prisons even have crisis units for people who need a high level of care. These units are designed to prevent someone staying on them from being able to harm themselves and are meant for short term stays while someone gets stabilized (Greifinger & Patterson, 2007).
There are also special concerns when giving medication to prisoners. Some medicines can be used recreationally, so there is a concern that inmates may want to skip taking their medication in order to sell or trade it (Greifinger & Patterson, 2007). This is a difference both between inmates who don't have any mental health condition (and wouldn't be on medication) and community members who are on psychiatric medication (who aren't monitored as closely for the chance that they could sell their medication).
In prisons, segregation refers to the act of keeping certain inmates in separate living facilities, often in isolation. This may be done if the inmate is a danger to others, or if others are a danger to them. It can also be done as a disciplinary action for violation of the strict prison rules. When an inmate is in segregation, they are confined to one area for up to 23 hours a day and are socially isolated (Hoke, 2015).
It is also important to note that someone may be disciplined for behaviors which are the direct result of a mental health condition they have. They may continue to rack up rule violations while in segregation and could stay in segregation indefinitely. This difficulty adhering to prison rules is part of why prisoners with mental health disorders stay in prison an average of 15 months longer than those without (Hoke, 2015).
Finally, segregation can have negative impacts on the mental health of inmates with and without pre-existing psychological conditions. The increased stress, isolation, and lack of structure can be triggers for existing psychological disorders and can cause some symptoms in people who may not have previously experienced them (Hoke, 2015).