Mental patients in prisons

World Psychiatry. 2009 Oct;8(3):187-9. doi: 10.1002/j.2051-5545.2009.tb00249.x.


Mental conditions usually affect cognitive, emotional and volitional aspects and functions of the personality, which are also functions of interest in law, as they are essential at the time of adjudicating guilt, labeling the accused a criminal, and proffering a sentence. A relationship between mental illness and criminality has, thus, been described and given as one of the reasons for the large number of mental patients in prisons. Whether this relationship is one of causality or one that flows through many other variables is a matter of debate, but there is no debating that prisons have become a de facto part, and an important one, of mental health systems in many countries. This paper deals with the issue of the relationship and provides estimates of prevalence of mental patients in prisons culled from many studies in different countries. It also provides some direction for the management of mental patients as they crowd correctional systems.

Keywords: Mental illness; epidemiology; mental health systems; prisons.