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Mental disorders more likely in jail.

A recent study of Chicago inmates indicated that schizophrenia, severe depression and mania occur up to three times as often among men in urban jails as among men in the population at large (SN: 6/16/90, p. 372). Further analysis now reveals that the vast majority of the Chicago inmates with a severe mental illness also suffer from some combination of alcohol abuse, illicit drug abuse and antisocial personality disorder. The latter condition features a long-term pattern of irresponsible, impulsive and violent behavior.

Based on a 1991 United States jail census of more than 395,000 inmates, the Chicago data suggest that nearly 24,000 U.S. inmates currently suffer from a severe mental disorder, maintain Karen M. Abram and Linda A. Teplin of Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. Of that number, about 17,000 also abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, they assert.

Abram and Teplin derive their estimates from interviews with 728 men sent to the Cook County (Ill.) Department of Corrections between November 1983 and November 1984.

Health care systems must undergo significant change to deal effectively with mentally ill substance abusers, who often get arrested because police officers can find no local mental-health treatment alternatives for them, Abram and Teplin assert in the October AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST. They offer three suggestions for improving the situation. First, police departments and hospitals should jointly arrange for immediate care and detoxification of mentally ill substance abusers when a police officer brings them to an emergency room. Second, jails and local mental health and substance abuse programs should create or improve links between them. Finally, policymakers should develop community programs that provide long-term psychological and vocational assistance to the mentally ill.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 26, 1991
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