“It’s Not Like Therapy”: Patient-Inmate Perspectives on Jail Psychiatric Services

Original Article


Jails may serve an important public health function by treating individuals with psychiatric problems. However, scholars debate the service qualities that can best achieve this aim. Some suggest the possibility of comprehensive psychiatric services in jails, while others recommend a narrower focus on basic elements of care (assessments, medication management, and crisis intervention). To date, this debate remains uninformed by service recipients. This qualitative study addresses this gap by illuminating patient-inmate perspectives on jail psychiatric services. Patient-inmate experiences indicate that the jail environment is incongruent with the provision of comprehensive psychiatric services. Thus, program administrators would best serve patient-inmates by strengthening basic services and connections to community-based providers who can provide comprehensive and effective care.


Mentally ill offenders Standards of care Mental health services Jails Inmates 



The research described was supported by Award Number T32AA007240, Graduate Research Training on Alcohol Problems, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official view of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or the National Institutes of Health. This work was also supported by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues’ Center for Research on Social Change at the University of California, Berkeley.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Leah A. Jacobs and Sequoia N. J. Giordano declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WelfareUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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