There are many special needs prisoners, one that many are familiar with are the mentally ill. In 1955 there were no more mental institutions being built, on top of that forty had been shut down within a decade. Since there were more prisons opening up, they seemed the most qualified to care for and house these patients. Today prisons have taken on the lead role of caring for mentally ill patients, housing 45,000 in prison to 3,000 in mental institutions. Rehabilitation programs are lacking in the mentally ill category, therefore mentally ill prisoners usually return to prison. Due to the lack of proper community programs, mentally ill patients usually end up on the streets, which lead them to crimes that range from public intoxication to homicide. While in prison the excess violence, as well as the stressful environment is harder on someone with a mental illness. Now prisons have separate ward to house mentally ill prisoners in order to combat the stressful environment. Here they have a trained staff to properly take care of these prisoners. Although prison systems are improving the care of mentally ill patients, the transition process into and the community is little to nonexistent. Drug and alcohol programs feel that the mentally ill are too disruptive, so they are turned away. There are very few places that are able to meet the needs of the mentally ill. As for the community, they have little sympathy for a mentally ill prisoner, which makes integration back into society almost impossible. Therefore the only treatment they may receive is in prison, so rehabilitating the mentally ill is very difficult, since the only place for most of them to go to receive help is prison.
The Sentencing Project (Washington, DC), (2002), Mentally Ill Offenders in the Criminal Justice System: An Analysis and Prescription, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation http://nicic.gov/Library/017558