Study Finds More Than Half Of All Prison And Jail Inmates Have Mental Health Problems
More than half of all prison and jail inmates, including 56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners and 64% of local jail inmates, were found to have a mental health problem, according to a new study published today by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
The findings represent inmates’ reporting symptoms rather than an official diagnosis of a mental illness. The study determined the presence of mental health problems among prison and jail inmates by asking them about a recent history or symptoms of mental disorders that occurred in the last year.
Among the inmates who reported symptoms of a mental disorder:
* 54% of local jail inmates had symptoms of mania, 30% major depression and 24% psychotic disorder, such as delusions or hallucinations.
* 43% of state prisoners had symptoms of mania, 23% major depression and 15% psychotic disorder.
* 35% of federal prisoners had symptoms of mania, 16% major depression and 10% psychotic disorder.
Female inmates had higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates — in state prisons, 73% of females and 55% of males; in federal prisons, 61% of females and 44% of males; and in local jails, 75% of females and 63% of males.
Mental health problems were primarily associated with violence and past criminal activity. An estimated 61% of state prisoners and 44% of jail inmates who had a mental health problem had a current or past violent offense. About a quarter of both state prisoners (25%) and jail inmates (26%) had served three or more prior sentences to incarceration.
Inmates with a mental health problem also had high rates of substance dependence or abuse in the year before their admission:
* 74% of state prisoners and 76% of local jail inmates were dependent on or abusing drugs or alcohol.
* 37% of state prisoners and 34% of jail inmates said they had used drugs at the time of their offense.
* 13% of state prisoners and 12% of jail inmates had used methamphetamines in the month before their offense.
Among inmates who had mental health problems, 13% of state prisoners and 17% of jail inmates said they were homeless in the year before their incarceration. About a quarter of both state prisoners (27%) and jail inmates (24%) who had a mental health problem reported past physical or sexual abuse.
About one in three state prisoners with mental health problems, one in four federal prisoners and one in six jail inmates had received mental health treatment since admission. Taking a prescribed medication was the most common type of treatment — 27% in state prisons, 19% in federal prisons, and 15% in local jails.
The findings in this report were based on a nationally representative sample of prisoners (in 2004) and jail inmates (in 2002). Approximately 14,500 state prisoners, 3,700 federal prisoners and 7,000 jail inmates completed face-to-face interviews.
The report, “Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates” (NCJ-213600) was written by BJS statisticians Doris J. James and Lauren E. Glaze.