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Mental Health in the Federal Prison System Prisoner Advocates Say It’s Inadequate

Posted by Vitaly Sigal | Jul 14, 2022 | 0 Comments

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with severe mental issues like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are ten times more likely to be in jail or prison than in a psychiatric facility.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) says, “About 43% of state and 23% of federal prisoners had a history of a mental health problem.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “The Bureau provides a full range of mental health treatment through staff psychologists and psychiatrists. … Psychologists are available for formal counseling and treatment on an individual or group basis.”

Advocates criticize Bureau of Prisons

Prisoner advocates dispute federal claims of effective treatment of inmates with mental illness.

“U.S. prisons and jails incarcerate a disproportionate amount of people who have a current or past mental health problem, and facilities are not meeting the demand for treatment,” the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) claims.

The PPI further asserts that 66% of federal prisoners reported “not receiving any mental health care while incarcerated.”

“The United States Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) is violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehab Act”) by discriminating on the basis of disability. BOP largely prohibits the use of MAT [medication-assisted treatment] for the long-term treatment of OUD (opioid use disorder) for nonpregnant individuals, and it fails to conduct an individualized assessment into whether an accommodation to provide MAT is reasonable,” attorney Jaclyn Tayabji wrote in the Boston University Law Review last year.

Opioid use disorder (i.e., addiction) is a mental illness that can be effectively treated with medication, but the federal prison system relies on cognitive behavioral therapy as its preferred treatment modality for rehabilitating prisoners.

Although the BOP acknowledges that MAT helps prisoners benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy in rehabilitation, Tayabji said only 20% of prisoners who need it receive MAT.

Inmates with mental disorders have rights

If a federal inmate you know or love has any kind of mental disorder and is not receiving proper medical treatment, an attorney knowledgeable in federal law can help. Call the Sigal Law Group at 818-325-0570 for a free consultation.

About the Author

Vitaly Sigal

Vitaly Sigal Sigal Law Group Owner 355 S. Grand Ave, Suite 2450 Los Angeles, CA 90071 (213) 620-0212 Vitaly Sigal has extensive trial experience and is not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. From straightforward to complex litigation, Mr. Sigal handles every case with the same i...


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