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March 7, 2013

Noting the intersection of mental illness and gender in incarceration nation

This recent article in the Denver Post, headlined "Two of three women in Colorado prisons diagnosed with psychological disorders," provides a notable window into the impact and import of issues of mental illness and gender with regard to who commits crimes and gets sent to prison for their crimes.  Here is how the piece starts:

The number of Colorado female prisoners diagnosed with psychological disorders has risen sharply to more than twice the level of male prisoners.

The women are almost without exception victims of severe sexual and physical abuse, experts say. They cycle through jail and prison, often because they don't get adequate treatment or community support.

"The trauma histories are extreme," said Theresa Stone, chief of mental health at Denver Women's Correctional Facility. "It's hard to hear what these women have been through."

While most women are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, a certain percentage of them are committing increasingly violent acts, Stone said.

"Women are in many cases extremely violent," she said. "I think we're seeing the impact of abuse and mental illness."

The state prison system has in recent years taken great strides in diagnosing and addressing the needs of mentally ill women, Stone said. There is drug counseling, psychological treatment and group therapy. Some women live in highly structured therapeutic communities in special pods. The first step was identifying the true scope of the problem, Stone said.

In 2001, a Colorado Department of Corrections review determined that 39 percent of women incarcerated in Colorado were diagnosed with some type of mental illness. A Dec. 31 report says that 67 percent of those women are mentally ill.

That is slightly lower than the national rate of women incarcerated in prison. According to a December 2006 Department of Justice study, 73 percent of women in state prisons nationally have some type of mental disorder. Within the general population, 12 percent of women have a diagnosed mental disorder, the same report says.

The percentage of men in Colorado prisons with a diagnosed mental illness also increased dramatically in the same time frame — from 18 percent to 30 percent — but the ratio is less than half the level of female inmates.

The percentage of female prisoners suffering mental conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, has always been high but many women hadn't been diagnosed, experts say. Many of the women also had declined to seek treatment until they were behind bars.

March 7, 2013 at 08:10 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Many of the women also had declined to seek treatment until they were behind bars.

It helps if the ♀ is correctly diagnosed .

I know of two women where it took MDs ten years to properly diagnose the illness ‼

Posted by: Anon. #2.71828 | Mar 7, 2013 9:08:41 AM

“Many of the women also had declined to seek treatment until they were behind bars.”

Our inmates suddenly discover all manner of "need" upon arrival:
new glasses, rotator cuff surgery, divorce, notarised letters to paramours, psychotropics.........

Somehow one suspects that the fact that it's all free has some creative effect, vis à vis their "needs".

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 7, 2013 6:31:58 PM

"The women are almost without exception victims of severe sexual and physical abuse, experts say."

Almost always based on self-report.

Posted by: justme | Mar 7, 2013 8:24:02 PM

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