Growing Need for Adequate Inmate Therapy

When we think about the lifestyles and surroundings of clients in therapy, we often conjure up notions about healthier or more active ways of going about the day, finding methods for creating less stress and more serenity, and finding time for oneself, all of which can have a positive impact on thinking and behavior. Finding time for oneself might not be a problem for the majority of prison inmates, but the other snippets of advice may prove more difficult to enact. Therapy clients in prison naturally face a set of challenges that differ from clients in the general population, but lately, those challenges have taken on new weight.

The impact of the global economic downturn on state and federal prisons has been immense; as the facilities and employees of the system take major funding hits, everything from salaries to special programs have been slashed in an effort to cut costs. Unfortunately, this has trickled down to the mental health care available to the incarcerated, which experience a significantly higher rate of emotional and behavioral difficulties than the population at large. In fact, some fourteen and a half percent of men in jail face the challenges of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other obstacles on the path towards well-being, while thirty one percent of jailed women experience similar situations.

The figures were released this month after the culmination of a study of over twenty thousand prison inmates, conducted by the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center and Policy Research Associates. As funds for more extensive and effective therapy programs suffers, mental health professionals are growing concerned over the potential of inmates’ sufferances to escalate and cause a downward spiral of increased jail time. While the solution to this situation has yet to be formed, the need for serious dialogue among lawmakers and industry professionals is clear.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jonie


    September 16th, 2009 at 10:07 AM

    I have come across a lot of people who have this negative prejudice against inmates… they think people who are in jail are all bad, are evil and deserve no kind of treatment and are actually a burden on the ‘normal’ populace, and I hate people for having such ‘dirty’ prejudices… Even inmates are human, they deserve proper treatment, affection and love just as much as each one of us does…

    But it is very sad and unfortunate that inmates’ mental health-care is taking a beating due to recession… All we can hope for is that this situation ends soon and everybody’s life is back on track and on course to a better future :)

  • Nathaniel


    September 16th, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    Jonie that’s all very well. Inmates should get proper care I agree but if it came down to a choice, I would want law abiding citizens to benefit from any increased resources in mental health funding first. When you make the choices that land you in prison, you pay the price.

  • Catherine


    September 16th, 2009 at 12:23 PM

    When I first graduated from college I went to work at a halfway house for federal inmates. A lot of these men and women were great people who just happened to make some poor decisions in their life, much of which stemmed from not only mental health issues but also their backgrounds which not only contributed to many of these same mental health issues but also to their decisions and why they were in the situations that they were in. I think that it is unfair to deny them access to the care that they need to get better and to hopefully come out of the entire process as more productive citizens. Unfortunately when they are denied this kind of care the recidivism rates tend to go on the rise and that is something that none of us can afford to accept. Give them a chance to improve their lives and we will all be better for that when they are released.

  • Marcus


    September 16th, 2009 at 3:23 PM

    Prison inmates are the most ignored and most misunderstood lot of our society and any cut-backs in government funding hits them first and the hardest. This is just not the way to treat people…people just like us, people who have a heart and soul…just like us.

    Inmates are no cruel people, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time with really bad things happening to them and affecting them to take bad decisions. We need to make sure inmates, just like each one of us, receives proper mental health-care and is taken care of to the best extent possible.

  • Deb


    September 17th, 2009 at 7:17 AM

    But what about the people who have lived on the right side of the law? It feels sometimes like these are the people who are being ignored while crooks in jail get all of the opportunities we do not get. They get to take college classes, watch cable tv, and now they get superior health care. I am not saying they should be denied access to care but give me a break! I want my degree too- maybe I should go to jail and I could get it for free.Oh wait- not free for the average tax payer, because that comes at our expense doesn’t it?

  • Catherine


    September 21st, 2009 at 7:38 AM

    Deb I still think that it is a better effort to give inmates care when they are incarcerated than to depend on them to seek it for themselves once they are released because you and I both know that will probably not happen and then they will become repeat offenders all over again.

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