Approximately 24% of males and 42.1% of the female population were incarnated in the mid 2000’s (Steadman et al., 2009, 761). How many of these inmates suffer from mental illness? According to Blitz, Wolff, and Shi (2008), approximately half of these inmates are known to suffer from a mental disorder (386). The assertion to be examined in this paper is that today’s prison inmates do not suffer from mental illness in significant numbers. By examining current empirical research, this assertion will be evaluated. Background and Significance
Mental illness defined by Barlow and Durand (2011) is a legal concept, typically meaning severe emotional or thought disturbances that negatively affect an individual’s health and safety (561). NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) states that mental illness is a broad term that describes psychological disorders. Some of the major mental illnesses are: major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Mental illness can affect anyone. Race, sex, or age does not matter; although genetics may have a factor in most illnesses (2011). In some research it has been stated that those who suffer from mental illness and are guilty of crimes that are not violent often have a prison sentence at least eight times as long as those without mental illness (Barlow and Durand, 2011, 567). The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reason to believe that approximately 16.3% of jail inmates stated having a mental condition or residing in a mental hospital at some point during their life (Steadman et al., 2009, 761). According to Steadman, Osher, Robbins, Case, & Samuels (2009), it is to be believed that those incarcerated suffering from mental illness are often reported in larger numbers than actually diagnosed (761). It is known that prisons can be a very violent setting for most, but more so when those who suffer from mental illness are incarcerated and improperly treated. Violence is a normal aspect of life in prison. It is primarily caused by keeping a large number of people with antisocial predispositions and behaviors in an overpopulated, confined area (Blitz et. al., 2008, 385). Overall, it is to be believed that inmates have a chance of having a mental illness. The first empirical study will determine the prevalence rate of those incarcerated having a mental illness. Review of Empirical Research
Prevalence of mental illness in jails
Steadman et al. (2009) studied the prevalence of serious mental illness among jail inmates. The participants were adult male and female inmates in five different jails in Maryland and New York. Data was collected during two different phases. During the first phase, data was collected from large samples of inmates who were incarcerated recently and were screened with the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (BJMHS). The BJMHS was developed for those being imprisoned to assess if further mental health treatment should be given. Subgroups were then selected from the larger group and the SCID (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV) was given. The SCID is a semi structured clinical interview designed to determine if a mental illness is present, including current and past symptoms (Steadman et al., 2009, 762). For phase II of the study, a revised version of BJMHS was given. Steadman et al, 2009, found that among male inmates, 14.5% had suffered from mental illness and among female inmates 30% suffered at the end of their study. These are the combined results from all of the jails and phases of the study. These percentages show that there is reason to believe that inmates suffer from some sort of serious mental illness. It was found that the number of people who are incarcerated and also suffer from mental illness is extensive. Steadman et al., (2009) states that there is broad consensus...