Breaking the Cycle: How Corrections Address Mental Health Challenges in Incarcerated Individuals

Managing mental health in correctional facilities

In the world of corrections, there is a significant connection between mental health issues and incarceration. According to Wally Campbell, Chief Psychologist at the Idaho Department of Correction, approximately one-third of inmates enter the system with mental health challenges. However, more are diagnosed while in prison due to the harsh and stressful environment that can exacerbate or cause situational mental illness.

Dr. Campbell has worked in correctional facilities since the 1990s and has seen firsthand how challenging it can be for individuals struggling with mental health to cope in such an environment. The assessment process for mental health needs at IDOC is similar to other states, where upon arrival, inmates undergo a screening by nurses in the reception diagnostic unit to determine any immediate mental health crises. The assessment includes questions about mental health history and current well-being to ensure proper care is provided.

Different levels of classification are assigned to those with mental health struggles to ensure they receive appropriate care. While treatment for mental illness can help reduce the likelihood of reoffending, resources are limited in addressing the needs of incarcerated individuals. Dr. Campbell emphasized that while addressing mental health is crucial, it may not solve the underlying criminal behavior of some individuals. The dual challenge of treating mental health and criminal behavior remains a complex issue in correctional facilities that requires ongoing attention and investment.

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