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.