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 GoodTherapy.org.
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