US jails use excessive force against mentally ill inmates

2015-05-12 19:51
(File)

(File) (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Mentally ill prisoners in US jails and penitentiaries are subjected to excessive use of force by ill-prepared corrections officers, the non-governmental Human Rights Watch found in a report issued Tuesday.

The report found unwarranted, excessive and sometimes punitive use of force - including restraints, pepper spray and electric stun devices - to be widespread.

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

Experts in corrections and mental health cited in the report urged better mental health treatment for inmates and more training to help staff recognise and respond appropriately to symptoms of mental illness.

Human Rights Watch said no national data was available for the report on the more than 5 100 jails and prisons in the United States, which are run by various agencies across the decentralised US law enforcement system: city police, county sheriffs, state corrections departments and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The report - Callous and Cruel: Use of Force against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons - is based on interviews with 125 current and former corrections officers, medical and psychiatric experts and prisoner advocates.

Roughly 20% of the US prison population has a serious mental illness, and 5% are estimated to be actively psychotic, the report said.

Human Rights Watch's recommendations include: reducing the population of mentally ill prisoners, in part by making community mental health treatment more available; improving mental health services for inmates; better policies on use of force against mentally ill prisoners; and more training and accountability for corrections officers in their handling of mentally ill prisoners.

"Custody staff are not trained in how to work with prisoners with mental disabilities, how to defuse volatile situations, or how to talk prisoners into complying with orders," Fellner said. "All too often, force is what staff members know and what they use. In badly run facilities officers control inmates, including those with mental illness, through punitive violence."

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.