Prisons Have Become Warehouses for the Mentally Ill
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On November 23, 2011, the California Department of Corrections published the “”, the second of what CDCR promises to be an annual report of the recidivism rate of its institutions. The one-year recidivism rate for those in the SHU was 52.2 percent while those not assigned to the SHU had a one year recidivism rate of 47.6 percent. At two years, 64.9 percent vs. 60.2 percent were the figures, and by three years 69.8 percent (or, 4,189 of the 6002) were back in prison vs. 64.8 percent of those who hadn’t served time in the SHU.
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The of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons found that solitary confinement was related to higher than average recidivism rates, particularly if people are released back into the community directly from solitary and that recidivism could be reduced if structured, evidence-based programming and educational opportunities are made available to those in solitary.
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Yes, in large numbers. Over the past 30 years, prisons and jails have become the nation’s largest inpatient psychiatric centers, and solitary confinement cells, in particular, are now used to warehouse thousands of individuals with mental illness. In a , Human Rights Watch estimated, based on available state data, that one-third to one-half of those held in isolation had some form of mental illness.
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In , , it has been found that suicide rates are significantly higher among people held in solitary confinement than in general population. In 2013, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Patterson prisoners in California’s Security Housing Units and Administrative Segregation Units have a 33 times greater chance of suicide than someone in the prison system’s general population.
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In before the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee in August 2011, Dr. Craig Haney discussed the effects of solitary confinement: “In short, prisoners in these units complain of chronic and overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression. Rates of suicide in the California lockup units are by far the highest in any prison housing units anywhere in the country. Many people held in the SHUs become deeply and unshakably paranoid, and are profoundly anxious around and afraid of people (on those rare occasions when they are allowed contact with them). Some begin to lose their grasp on their sanity and badly decompensate.”