• Jada Hector
  • David Khey


Prisons present a complex array of problems relating to mental health. Perhaps most notably, the prison environment is quintessentially iatrogenic—that is, the “treatment” for substance abuse and mental illness now comes commonly in the form of incarceration, and this treatment by incarceration is related to further sickness. In other words, the American prison environment is the antithesis of a therapeutic community. Argumentatively, this has resulted in part from a combination result of a recent “no-frills” movement (Finn, 1996) and a growing scarceness of resources. Regardless, prison is often awash in contraband (e.g., alcohol and drugs) and trauma-inducing situations (e.g., physical and sexual violence, administrative segregation and isolation, and missing the death of loved ones in the free world while incarcerated). The data provided in earlier sections of this text presented the daunting statistics behind these issues: just over half of state prisoners have a mental health problem; only one-third of state inmates with a mental illness receive treatment for their illness in prison; and a smaller proportion receives professional mental health therapy for their symptoms. It appears that change is occurring most slowly for prisons than any other segment of the criminal justice system, primarily due to persistent budgetary constraints dating back to at least 1998 (CASA, 1998).


Institutional change Prison reform Judicial oversight System failures Administrative segregation Inmate-led models Social clubs Faith-based programming Mental health awareness Innovations Recidivism 


  1. Ashker v. Brown. 4:09-CV-05696. United States District Court, N.D. California.Google Scholar
  2. Boston Globe. (2016). There may be no worse place for the mentally ill people to receive treatment than prison. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  3. Braggs v. Dunn. 2:14CV601-MHT. United States District Court, M.D. Alabama.Google Scholar
  4. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (2009). Mental health services delivery system. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  5. Carroll, G. & Rosenberg, S. (1967). Cool Hand Luke [Motion Picture]. USA: Warner Bros.Google Scholar
  6. Coleman v. Brown. 938 F.Supp.2d 955.Google Scholar
  7. Coleman v. Wilson. 912 F.Supp. 1282.Google Scholar
  8. Davis v. Ayala. 135 S.Ct. 2187, 2205.Google Scholar
  9. Finn, P. (1996). No-frills prisons and jails: A movement in flux. Federal Probation, 60(3), 35–44.Google Scholar
  10. Haney, C. (1993). Infamous punishment: The psychological consequences of isolation. National Prison Project Journal, 8(2):3–7.Google Scholar
  11. Haney, C. (2003). The psychological impact of incarceration: Implications for post-prison adjustment. Prisoners once removed: The impact of incarceration and reentry on children, families, and communities. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  12. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. (1998). Addiction treatment in prison will reduce crime, save billions of tax dollars, says CASA report. News Briefs. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from www​
  13. Steinberg, D., Mills, D., & Romano, M. (2015). When did prisons become acceptable mental healthcare facilities? Stanford Law School. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  14. Small, J., & Pickoff-White, L. (2017). Judge threatens to fine California prisons for delayed mental health treatment. KQED. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
  15. Smith, P. S. (2006). The effects of solitary confinement on prison inmates: A brief history and review of the literature. Crime and justice, 34(1), 441–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Treatment improvement protocol 44: Substance abuse treatment for adults in the criminal justice system. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jada Hector
    • 1
  • David Khey
    • 2
  1. 1.New OrleansUSA
  2. 2.University of LouisianaLafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations