At mid-year 2005, more than half of all prison and jail inmates in the United States reported symptoms of a mental health problem within the last 12 months (James & Glaze, 2006).Among the state prison inmates nationwide, 43% reported symptoms that met criteria for mania, 23% reported symptoms of major depression, and 15% reported symptoms that met criteria for a psychotic disorder. (James & Glaze, 2006)
Contributory factors to the higher prevalence rates of mental illness among individuals in prison include the criminalization of the mentally ill (Aderbigbe, 1977) and communication barriers between the criminal justice and mental health systems of care (Lamberti & Weisman, 2001). In addition, Satriano (2006) has described the social and contextual issues in the 1960's that were contributing factors to the imprisonment of seriously mentally ill persons, including deinstitutionalization of severely mentally ill persons in without adequate follow-up; rising levels of homelessness and substance abuse among mentally ill persons; and an anti-psychiatry movement led by Thomas Szasz and R. D. Lang who believed mental illness to be a myth and viewed psychosis to be a reactive response to a bad situation. Also, the criteria of dangerousness became necessary to involuntarily confine an individual, shifting the idea of commitment from a therapeutic concept to one that is protective of society.
Most experts agree that the incarcerated population's mental health needs are grossly underprovided while they are incarcerated (Roskes et al., 1999). Mentally ill prisoners are more a risk for behavioral disturbances, acts of aggression, and disciplinary problems than non-mentally inmates (Rowen & Hayes, 1995). Untreated psychiatric symptoms are associated with assaults, self-injurious behavior, social withdrawal, and suicides within correctional facilities. (Hayes, 1995)
The Supreme Court (Estelle vs. Gamble, 1976) established that it is unconstitutional under the eighth amendment to show indifference to the medical needs of prisoners. In Browning vs. Godwin (1977) it was determined that the right to medical treatment is not distinguishable from the right of mental health treatment. The American Psychiatric Association (2000) and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (1999) recommend mental health screening at the time of prison intake.
The efficacy of treatment for the disease of interest should be established before a standardized prison-based screening program is considered. Early treatment with psychotropic medication is critical to the successful treatment of patients with serious psychiatric disorders. In the disease of schizophrenia, for example, the recognition of early phase illness and vigorous treatment aimed at relapse prevention may improve long term prognosis (Keks, Mazumdar, & Shields, 2000). Specifically, early intervention with antipsychotic medications decreases the long term morbidity of schizophrenia (Wyatt, Damiani, & Henter, 1998) and leads to a 2.5 to 10-fold reduction in relapse rates among those given maintenance treatment with anti-psychotic medication (Davis, 1985). Other studies have shown that detection, treatment and symptom control improves rehabilitation outcomes and self-efficacy