Mentally ill and prison
Mentally ill and prison

Mentally ill and prison


In the News…

Yesterday I was reading an article about a man in a Kentucky prison that died while having a “mentally ill” episode. During this “episode” this man was pepper sprayed, tased, choked and spit hooded. This “episode” lasted over 40 minutes and while not resisting the guards held a stun shield to the inmate’s body. The guards were not properly trained and a crisis team was not called. Therefore, the man died in the dark and not treated very well during the episode. When the situation turned deadly, medical staff were not called to help safe this man’s life. This man had already served 5 years in prison, so guards should have been able to de-escalate the episode. Now, his family is grieving the loss of a family member.

Consequences of Untrained Staff:

Inmates suffer greatly when they have behavioral health issues. By not having trained guards, inmates will be strapped prone with hand and ankle shackles. Inmates will not be allowed to shower because they scare the guards so the guards do not them out of their cells for weeks to shower. Inmates will get stun gun/tased, pepper sprayed, privileges taken away and spit hooded. The guards may use a stun shield pressed against an inmate’s body. An inmate may be dragged out of the cell and possibly choked. An inmate may be placed in solitary confinement for weeks, months or even years. Inmates that are placed in solitary confinement for months or even years have been known to develop mental illness and PTSD. Just being in prison causes PTSD.

Cause and Affect:

There are many studies that have been done on the affects of solitary confinement and how it causes mental illness and PTSD.  In Texas prisons there are men that have been in solitary confinement for 25 -30 years. And as the world moves forward with technology, in the medical community and just in general why can’t the prison system? When studies show how harmful it is to keep someone in solitary confinement for years why can’t they find a different way to “punish” an inmate? PTSD is also caused by living in constant fear and always getting into fights.

Prison’s do not offer…..

So many times in prison inmates with behavioral health diagnosis go untreated or mis-diagnosed because the doctors are overwhelmed with amount of inmates, shortage of  staff or they just don’t get help period. The prison does not offer weekly counseling , group counseling by a licensed psychologist, and they offer medications. Prisons doctors do not follow up when they give medications for behavioral health issues. Most of the time they give the same medication to everyone not really getting to the problems and realizing that not everyone has the same problems. Suicide rates are also a concern with behavioral health diagnosis in the prisons because the inmates do not get the proper care that is needed.

What is needed:

What is needed are major changes. Weekly counseling, better medical/ medicine care and follow up appointments. Stop using solitary confinement all together, these are grown men and women, they do not need a “time out”.   Start making inmates responsible for themselves.  Give them jobs so they can pay for their stay in prison and their release. Give them programs that are working towards their release. Train the guards in behavioral health and crisis prevention.

Separate Inmates:

Stop mixing everyone together. If you do not have a major crime, do not have a life sentence then do not put those inmates with inmates who have a major crime or life sentence. All these things would make the prisons less violent, would make the inmates more productive and they would pay for themselves. There are enough prisons in each state to separate inmates in categories according to crime, sentence and violence level.  This could help with PTSD and perhaps have less cases of inmates with PTSD.


Hope for Training & Consultants LLC has training on behavioral health or ask your state’s behavioral health agencies for training.  Look for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) which shows you how to restrain without causing any injury or death. Most importantly learn everything you can about behavioral health diagnosis.


My heart goes out to all the families that have lost someone in the prison system that was dealing with behavioral health issues and could not get the help they needed.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you so please send me a comment or email.

Let me know your thoughts.


  1. Stephanie

    This is just terrible. Why don’t they just get these the proper help they need. They have the money considering how much money they take from our taxes each year. Where does the money go?

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