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Chartbook on Mental Health and Disability

Section 4: Access, utilization, and cost of services

4.11. How many people with mental disorders are in correctional institutions?

Correctional institutions—prisons, jails, and juvenile justice facilities—are, for some people with mental disorders, the first contact with mental health services. The Center for Mental Health Services has conducted nationwide surveys in the "de facto mental heath system" in correctional facilities to identify the extent of mental health services available there (Goldstrom, Henderson, Male, & Manderscheid, 1998).

At the close of 2001, nearly 2 million people (1,962,220) were held in federal or state prisons or local jails. An additional 108,931 youth were held in U.S. juvenile facilities. About 4.7 million adults were on probation or parole. In total, nearly 6.8 million people are under correctional supervision each year (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001; Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).

There are no clear prevalence data on the number of people in correctional institutions who have a mental disorder or a disability due to mental disorders, but a number of studies have found that the rate of mental disorders and disabilities is higher in these populations than in the general public.

On the basis of a 1997 inmate self-report survey, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that 16.2% of state inmates (191,000) had a mental illness (Beck & Maruschak, 2001).

Teplin and her colleagues (1994, 1996, 1997) found that 9.0% of men and 18.5% of women entering local jails have a history of serious mental illness. They also found that 6.1% of men and 15% of women in local jails had current symptoms of serious mental disorders.

In a review of the literature on juvenile detention, Goldstrom and associates estimated that at least 20%* of youth in the juvenile justice system have serious mental illness and up to 75% have some mental, emotional, or behavioral health problem (Goldstrom, Jaiquan, Henderson, Male, & Manderscheid, 2000).

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