How do special needs, mentally ill, and substance-abusing prisoners affect the jail and prison systems at state and federal levels? Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments (Atabay, T., & United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2009). Their special needs demand treatment to reduce the risk they pose to themselves and the society. The prison authority at state and federal levels have to bestow special attention to such inmates along with generating funds, staff, and facilities for them and building them special programs aimed to rehabilitate them. Mentally ill inmates cost more than non-mentally ill inmates for several reasons like increased staffing. Also, the prescription drugs costs for inmates exceed the costs of feeding them (Torrey et al., 2010).
Moreover, the prison systems have to ensure sufficient safety, security, housing, feeding, medicinal, legal, recreational, and expert handlers for prisoners with disabilities. For example, the prison service in United Kingdom has to provide all disabled prisoners with an information pack developed for them in cooperation with the Prison Reform Trust (Atabay, T., & United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2009). Monitoring, maintaining, treating, and releasing these inmates require a separate set of rules and regulations, and, considering that state and federal prison systems are not coordinated, the need to bridge this gap and correct discrepancies add to the cost, time, and resources further.
Prisoners with disabilities are at disadvantages of being exploited and victimized by fellow inmates. Symptoms associated with their condition may annoy or disgust others, e.g., self-mutilation, being suicidal, and creating ruckus, earning them extreme punishments by the prison staff. Because of their anti-social behavior, such inmates are often isolated or quarantined, usually in a degrading condition, which aggravates their symptoms and illness like fearfulness and schizophrenia. Torrey et al. (2010) revealed that a 2010 audit of three state prisons in Wisconsin reported “between 55 percent and 76 percent of inmates in segregation [isolation] are mentally ill.” If disabled prisoners are left on their own, untreated, or ignored, their disability and its effect on their mental and physical well-being deteriorates, furthering psychotic depression and increasing the risk for illness or physical damage to others. What’s more, there is always a risk of releasing such inmates into the society because they may have developed severe symptoms during their term. In the Los Angeles County Jail, 90% of mentally ill inmates are repeat offenders, with 31% having been incarcerated ten or more times (Torrey et al., 2010). As the state and federal prison systems are not in sync, most mentally ill inmates are transited out of prisons with very little or no psychiatric aftercare. As a result, the recidivism rate is higher among them, demanding urgent special attention.
Drug Abuse Program (DAP) by Federal Bureau of Prisons (“Substance Abuse Treatment,” n.d.)
DAP was designed to reduce criminality, relapse, recidivism, mental illness, behavioral disorders, and misconduct and to increase the level of education and employment on returning to the community, their inmate’s stake in societal norms, their health and mental health symptoms and conditions, and relationships with others.
The following are the characteristics of the DAP by the Bureau:
- Drug Abuse Education: Educating about substance use and its ill effects, motivating for taking up the program, and recommending appropriate treatment.
- Nonresidential Drug Abuse Treatment: A 12-week, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for rational thinking, correcting criminal lifestyles, building communication skill, and institution/community adjustment.
- Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP): A 9-month program wherein inmates live in a separate unit and participate in programming and work, school, or vocational activities on
- Community Transition Drug Abuse Treatment (TDAT): Continuing DAP in the community upon transfer to a residential reentry center (RRC) and monitoring an inmate’s treatment progress during his/her stay in the RRC.
- Regional TDAT: Providing treatment to the inmates in an RRC or on home-confinement with the help of addictions counselors, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, and doctors.
Successfully running for the past 20 years, the Bureau’s DAP has undergone gradual modification to incorporate improved techniques along with monitoring correctional and treatment programs, enhancing staff expertise, and using effective evidence-based practices to resolve issues related to treatment, legal challenges, program expansion, and rehabilitation of the special inmates.
Review of the treatment outcome with this program in the past 20 years of its implementation has been positive and successful both for the ex-inmates, who are now leading a comparatively better life, and for the public, in terms of their safety and economics.
The Bureau’s RDAPs have made significant difference in the lives of inmates following their release into the community by ensuring successful completion of TDAT. As the period after release is vulnerable for relapse into drug use or criminal behavior, continued treatment and supervision at this time is very critical. RDAP participants were significantly less likely to recidivate and relapse to drug use than non-participants. RRC treatment ensured that each inmate received treatment and management similar to that in a Bureau institution. This all-inclusive treatment program provided inmates the access to facilities for a healthy transition into the community, helping them live normally.
Atabay, T., & United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2009). Handbook on prisoners with special needs. New York: United Nations.
Torrey, E. F., Kennard, A. D., Eslinger, D., Lamb, R., Pavie, J., National Sheriffs’ Assoc 1450 Duke Street Alexandria VA 22314-3490, & Treatment Advocacy Ctr 200 North Glebe Road Suite 730 Arlington VA 22203. (2010). More Mentally Ill Persons Are in Jails and Prisons Than Hospitals: A Survey of the States. United States.
United States Department of Justice. Substance Abuse Treatment. Washington, D.C.: Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved from http://www.bop.gov/inmate_programs/substance.jsp.