Mental Health of Prisoners: Identifying Barriers to Mental Health Treatment and Medication Continuity




Jennifer M. Reingle Gonzalez, PhD, and Nadine M. Connell, PhD

American Journal of Public Health

October 16, 2014


Objectives. We assessed mental health screening and medication continuity in a nationally representative sample of US prisoners.

Methods. We obtained data from 18 185 prisoners interviewed in the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. We conducted survey logistic regressions with Stata version 13.

Results. About 26% of the inmates were diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point during their lifetime, and a very small proportion (18%) were taking medication for their condition(s) on admission to prison. In prison, more than 50% of those who were medicated for mental health conditions at admission did not receive pharmacotherapy in prison. Inmates with schizophrenia were most likely to receive pharmacotherapy compared with those presenting with less overt conditions (e.g., depression). This lack of treatment continuity is partially attributable to screening procedures that do not result in treatment by a medical professional in prison.

Conclusions. A substantial portion of the prison population is not receiving treatment for mental health conditions. This treatment discontinuity has the potential to affect both recidivism and health care costs on release from prison. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print October 16, 2014: e1e6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302043)








Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee