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prison facilities as they are increasingly being converted into mental health facilities. As psychiatric hospitals close up and psychotic individuals discharged to the society, a tragedy is…
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The New Asylums The New Asylums is a Frontline video which highlights the challenges facing the U.S. prison facilities as they are increasingly being converted into mental health facilities. As psychiatric hospitals close up and psychotic individuals discharged to the society, a tragedy is created as most of them end up in prison facilities. It is estimated that the number of mentally ill persons in the U.S. prisons and jails stand at 500,000 as compared to the 55,000 who are currently receiving their treatment at respective psychiatric facilities. This trend has forced prison wardens and sheriffs to become the unthought-of and, in most cases, ill-equipped caregivers to this ever increasing population.
Several issues are presented in the film starting with the closures of psychiatric hospitals and consequent conversion of prisons into alternative mental facilities. Evidently, prisons do not exist to provide psychiatric medical health care, but instead they exist to provide inmate security. Unfortunately, prison staffs have been forced to contend with the need of taking care of prisoners who require mental treatment. In the bit of the video entitled inmates crisis, the narrator bemoans acute cases where prisoners are taken to prison infirmary to receive specialize care. Acute mental cases present an uphill task to the staff as such prisoners have a trend of rejecting medication or violate further prison laws. As noted, while a good number of these prisoners were meant to serve a minimal term in the facility, they end up receiving maximum imprisonment for non-compliance to these prison laws. Also, the narrator bemoans the fact that a significant proportion of these prisoners subject themselves to self-mutilation such as banging ones head against the wall. Instead of their condition improving, they become further delusional, hallucinate, and decompensate.
The idea of psychiatric cases has not only impacted prisons staff but also the entire judicial system. For instance, one judge says that they are forced to send some psychotic cases to prison instead of referring them to state hospitals as they are sure they will receive treatment while there. The problem is further compounded by the fact that those who are supposed to be treating psychiatric cases in hospitals have found themselves serving in prison facilities. The video however fails to explicitly detail policy changes or suggestions that could otherwise improve the condition of psychotic cases in prisons. One thing that is evident is that policy makers are in favour of psychiatric cases being handled at prison level. For instance, the Ohio Prison department resorted to enhancing their facilities so as to effectively take care of the prisoners. This included designing infirmaries and isolation facilities to keep extreme psychotic prisoners away from other prisoners. Arguably, the case of Sigmon Clark, a paranoid schizophrenic inmate, could hardly be treated in a mental hospital as the person is extremely aggressive.
In conclusion, The New Asylum has effectively brought to light the dangers associated with converting prison facilities into facilities taking care of psychotic cases. This is dangerous as some inmates end up being confined behind the bars for longer terms for their failure to comply with the laws within these facilities. However, there is an urgent need for the American government and respective policy makers, including Correction departments and health care departments, to design sufficient facilities and measures to take care of psycho cases away from the prisons.
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Frontline. The New Asylum. Retrieved from: Read More
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