Mental Illness and Jails

Topics: Mental Health

Mental illnesses affect many people. Not only adults, but kids, teenagers, and inmates. Inmates struggle with depression and anxiety just like everyone else. In some jails, the staff members do not know how to properly handle a mentally ill inmate. The staff members sometimes will ignore the inmate’s words and actions, and when this happens, the inmate will kill themselves in the jail cell. Inmates are real people, just like everyone else in this world. It is important that staff members get properly trained because more than half of all jails have inmates that are suffering everyday with depression and other mental disorders.

Mental illness is not a disorder to overlook or have people think that it is not a serious problem. Mental illness has become a huge issues in jails. Jail staff members should be better trained to help and approach a mentally ill inmate in jails and prisons.

Increase of Mental Health Problems

Since the early 2000s the US has an increase of mental health problems in jails.

Studies have found that more than half of the state prisons and jails had inmates that had some form of mental illness while impassioned. J.D. Anderson conducted a research study on how correctional staff and criminal justice personnel prepare to appropriately interact with. Manage, and provide services to those who have a mental illness while incarcerated. Anderson conducted this study because he works in a jail and wanted to find an effort to help create a solution to enhance the skills and abilities of criminal justice personnel.

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Anderson had worked in the jail for years and had saw many things that made it clear that jail staff member need to have more acute and crisis intervention training, similar to those in health institutions.

Process the Qualitative Interviews

This particular study followed 10 to 12 correctional managers in a Midwest facility for 10 weeks while training. The study use a three-phrase process of the look, think, and act concept. The look process involved the building blocks for the study. This portion made the researcher able to identify and collaborate with the key players in the correction system. The “story” was introduced in the look process of the study. The next process was the think process. During this process the qualitative interviews, focus groups and group discussions took place as well as the quantitative pre- and post- assessments and the post training knowledge assessment. The quantitative process focused on ascertaining baseline knowledge of the participants in an effort to pinpoint what areas of training needed development.

The final phase is the act phase. During this phase of the study, naturalistic observations were observed while staff members were working with the mentally ill inmates to see if they were using the skills learned in mental health training sessions. This phase also consisted of the researcher validating findings with more analysis featuring triangulation of the research data. The study used data collection methods such as observations, focus groups, and interviews combined with a post-training knowledge assessment. The focus group of this study consisted of the participants completing a survey about the mental health training needs, engage in the focus group, and observations. At the end of Anderson’s study, it was found that jail personnel respond positively to training, but the training should be based on the needs of the inmates (Anderson, 2014).

Study by Valarie Dy

The study conducted by Anderson, was for the good of the people and the inmates of jails. This study had some flaws such as the sample group. 10-12 managers for only 10 weeks based on observations was flawed. That is too small of a sample group and the jail staff members are going to do everything right because they are watching. I think the study proves that staff members do need to be trained as if they were working in a mental health institution. The study would have been conducted better and had better results if the correctional staff did not know that they were being watched and do a hidden investigation. This way, the results would have been more real-life and not based on people who know they are being watched for a study.

Another study that was conducted by Valarie Dy, was to determine the effectiveness of the current mandatory mental health training in California. The main goal of this study was to help correctional officers provide help and guidance to mental ill personnel. The research tried to gain evidence that training would benefit the officers. This study used 40 correctional officers who are currently employed at a California facticity. To work at this facility, you must attend a 4-hour mental health workshop and that covers an introduction to mental disorders and how to react with inmates who are suffering from a mental illness. Informed consent was taken from all officers in this study.

Participants were asked if they wanted to be in a study and was told that they would be examined to see how well prepared they would be when dealing with a mentally ill inmate. The process of this study including three of the same surveys, taken 30-minutes before the in-service training, immediately after the training and then again 30-days after the training was completed. 30-mintues prior to the training, each participant was given a number so the surveys would be kept confidential. Participants would then take the mandatory 4-hour training and take the survey again to determine if there were any changes. The results showed that there was a difference from pre-mental health training and post-mental health training. But the results also showed that there was no statistically difference from post-training to 30-days post training (Dy, 2013).

Training Officers to Handle a Mentally Ill

The study conducted by Dy, had a better sample size than the study conducted by Anderson. Dy’s sample size was 40 correctional officers compared to only 10-12 in Anderson’s study. Dy’s study used surveys before training, right after, and 30 days after the training was complete. The results did not surprise me. The officers had no significate difference prior to training than to after the training. Of course, officers who took the survey directly after the training, had a higher score than they did 30 days later. This may be because they remember what they were trained to do directly after, also officers could put the answers that the survey wants. This study shows that even with a 4-hour training class, officers are not greatly trained in how to react with an inmate who is struggling from a mental illness.

Furthermore, the studies conducted by Anderson and Dy, have proven that correctional officers need to be better trained. A survey is not going to accurately show the difference. What I think needs to happen is a longer training course, instead of 4-hours, maybe try a 6-week training class. Officers should then go back to work and be monitored without knowing. This would show whether or not the officers have been better trained to handle an inmate. Training officers to handle a mentally ill inmate would help a great amount with the officer to inmate relationships.

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Mental Illness and Jails. (2021, Nov 11). Retrieved from

Mental Illness and Jails
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