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Behind Bars, Mentally Ill Inmates Are Often Punished For Their Symptoms
National Public Radio

By some accounts, nearly half of America’s incarcerated population is mentally ill — and journalist Alisa Roth argues that most aren’t getting the treatment they need.

Roth has visited jails in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta and a rural women’s prison in Oklahoma to assess the condition of mentally ill prisoners. She says correctional officers are on the “front lines” of mental health treatment — despite the fact that they lack clinical training.

“Most of [the correctional officers] will talk about how this is not what they signed up,” Roth says. “Most of them have not had much training in dealing with mental illness — or they’ve had none at all.”

Roth witnessed high-risk prisoners in solitary confinement or chained up or wearing restrictive jumpsuits — which tended to exacerbate the prisoners’ distress.

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