Mentally ill federal prisoners are placed in solitary confinement for long periods, suffer from a lack of treatment resources and experience conditions that can worsen their ailments, according to a Justice Department watchdog report.
The study, released by the department’s inspector general’s office on Wednesday, said the policies of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) “do not adequately address the confinement of inmates with mental illness” in various forms of restrictive housing.
“While the BOP has taken a number of steps to address mental health concerns for inmates in restrictive housing, there are still significant issues regarding the adequacy and implementation of BOP policies in this critical area,” said Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Among the issues cited in the report:
- Some mentally ill inmates are housed in solitary-confinement conditions for many years, though studies demonstrate that “can be psychologically harmful to any prisoner” and can lead to increased anger, aggression and recidivism.
- “BOP does not sufficiently track or monitor such inmates.”
- “Mental Health staff do not always document inmates’ mental disorders.”
- “Mental health staffing does not support the treatment needs of inmates with mental illness.”
- BOP is “unable to accurately determine the number of inmates with mental illness.”
- BOP is unable to “ensure that it is providing appropriate care” to inmates with mental illness.
“Although the BOP has stated that it does not practice solitary confinement,” Horowitz. said “we found inmates, including those with mental illness, who were housed in single-cell confinement for long periods of time, isolated from other inmates, with limited human contact.”
BOP agreed with recommendations from the inspector general’s office, but prison officials did not respond to a request for comment.