Mentally Ill Inmates:

BOP Plans to Improve Screening and Care in Federal Prisons and Jails

GGD-92-13: Published: Nov 20, 1991. Publicly Released: Dec 23, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the treatment and identification of mentally ill inmates housed in Bureau of Prisons (BOP)-operated prisons and jails.

GAO found that: (1) according to BOP officials, court officials identify mentally ill inmates before they enter the prison system and prison officials identify mentally ill inmates during screening upon the inmates' entry into prison or as a result of an observable failure to function in an open prison population; (2) about two-thirds of the 3,131 mentally ill inmates identified by officials at 65 BOP facilities were reportedly enrolled in treatment programs run by the facilities' psychology or mental health departments, while others may have been on medication or under treatment by a psychiatrist; (3) about 650 of the mentally ill offenders were located at the 4 BOP psychiatric referral centers; (4) officials from 45 of the 65 BOP facilities reported having some inmates who were suspected of being mentally ill, but who had not been diagnosed as such, mentally ill inmates who had been diagnosed, but were not enrolled in mental health treatment, and mentally ill inmates who were not receiving needed psychiatric care; (5) the major reasons prison officials gave to explain why inmates went untreated included inmate ability to cope with prison life, inmate refusal of treatment, limited treatment resources, and insufficient mental health screening; and (6) in November 1990, an advisory group made extensive recommendations to improve the treatment and identification of mentally ill inmates, but prison overcrowding, budgetary restraints, and difficulties in hiring sufficient staff hinder effective and thorough implementation of BOP plans.