Punishing illness: Study reveals abuse of prisoners with mental conditions

Punishing illness: Study reveals abuse of prisoners with mental conditions

A new study from Human Rights Watch reveals harrowing accounts of violence against mentally ill prisoners.

A recent study has marred the spirit of this Mental Health Awareness Month, revealing a sordid pattern of abuse against mentally ill prisoners across America.

The 127-page report from Human Rights Watch, titled “Callous and Cruel: Use of Force Against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in U.S.,” includes accounts where correction workers have used chemical sprays, strapped inmates to chairs for days, used stun weapons, broken bones and inflicted painful injuries and bruises. In some cases, this use of force proved fatal.

“Jails and prisons can be dangerous, damaging, and even deadly places for men and women with mental health problems,” said Jamie Fellner, U.S. program senior adviser at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. “Force is used against prisoners even when, because of their illness, they cannot understand or comply with staff orders.”

The report has shined a spotlight on a pattern of incarceration rather than hospitalization and care, which would allow the mentally ill to be treated by trained professionals.


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  1. Sleep says

    Anyone (man/woman) that feel, taking the job as Prison Guards, should be placed in the very conditions of which a prisoner will have to live under their watch/control. Giving them the chance to find ways that they can improve the situation between the prisoner and the Guard. Living in the very conditions that they place the prisoner to live under their standards. Any guard found to abuse anyone for any reason that is not authorized by the judicial system, that placed the prisoner in that prison should be placed in the exact same position of which the guard has placed the prisoner in.. Everyone must be held accountable for every action he/she takes/makes, for the good or bad. No one has the right to place themselves above the law or excuse themselves from following any laws of where they are, no matter who or who they think thy are. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity. For those that can not follow along simple idea should be removed from the system and placed in a job that separates them from others after being treated, the way he/she has mistreated others. For at least 30 days, adding another 30 days for each person/incident involved.
    The same rule, should be set in place for all officers on the streets, in the courts, all the way through the human society.
    There needs to be a system, that holds everyone to the point of accounting for the choices made.

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