Lessons Learned in Prison and Jail-Based Telepsychiatry
Purpose of Review
The purpose of this article is to review the unique benefits and challenges of implementing telepsychiatry in correctional facilities.
Telepsychiatry has been shown to be an effective mode of patient care delivery in jails and prisons. Psychiatry staffing shortages nationwide are impacting the ability of correctional facilities to provide sufficient psychiatric care to inmates. However, telepsychiatry has helped alleviate the staffing shortages.
Correctional facilities are obligated to provide adequate psychiatry services to inmates in need of them. Unfortunately, many facilities are not able to recruit sufficient numbers of psychiatrists due to the nationwide shortage of doctors. Telepsychiatry is a way to meet these needs by providing services remotely. Telepsychiatry is an attractive option for providers who want to avoid some of the less pleasant aspects of working in a jail or prison. Also, telepsychiatry offers unique advantages to the way care can be given. However, there are also aspects of this mode of healthcare delivery that require systems to be thoughtful about how the doctor can best be integrated into the treatment team and the facility at large.
KeywordsTelepsychiatry Tele-behavioral health Telemedicine
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Edward Kaftarian is CEO of Orbit Health which provides telepsychiatry services to correctional facilities.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance
- 1.• Ziegler. Deconstructing the telehealth industry: part II. Improving the access points of healthcare delivery. Industry white paper. Spring 2018. This is a review of driving forces for virtual care and an overview of the virtual health ecosystem of care. Google Scholar
- 6.Bureau of Justice Statistics. Mental health problems of prison and jail inmates. September 2006. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/mhppji.pdf (last accessed on 9/14/18).
- 7.Bureau of Justice Statistics BJS finds inmates have a higher rates of psychological distress then the U.S. general population. 2017 https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/imhprpji1112pr.cfm (last accessed on 9/14/18).
- 8.• Estelle v Gamble, 429 US 97 (1976). This is the Supreme Court case which established that correctional facilities who deliberately deprive adequate medical care to inmates violate the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. Google Scholar
- 9.• Bowring v Godwin, 551 F2d 44 (4th Cir 1977). This Supreme Court case established that the right inmates have to adequate healthcare includes psychological and psychiatric care when needed. Google Scholar
- 10.KQED News. Judge threatens to fine California prisons for delayed mental health treatment. April 2017. https://www.kqed.org/news/11418506/judge-threatens-to-fine-california-prisons-for-delayed-mental-health-treatment (last accessed 9/14/18).
- 11.• Human Rights Watch. Mental Illness, Human Rights, and US Prisons. September 2009. https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/09/22/mental-illness-human-rights-and-us-prisons (last accessed 9/14/18) This is a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law.
- 12.National Council Medical Director Institute. The psychiatric shortage, causes and solutions. March 2017. https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Psychiatric-Shortage_National-Council-.pdf (last accessed 9/14/18)
- 13.CDCR, Data Analysis Unit, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Estimates and Statistical Analysis Section State of California, Offender Information Services Branch January 2013Google Scholar
- 14.• Zimbardo P. The Stanford Prison Experience, a simulation study on the psychology of imprisonment. 1999–2018. http://www.prisonexp.org/ last accessed on 8/7/18. This is the official website of the Stanford Prison Experiment, featuring information about the experiment to include an overview of the experiment and a discussion of its significance.
- 15.Facility Executive. Why workplace cleanliness is key. https://facilityexecutive.com/2017/12/workplace-cleanliness-key/ (last accessed 9/14/2018).
- 16.Downen, Daniel Patrick. What works in corrections: teamwork; a tool in driving organizational culture change. 2011Google Scholar