Experts: Jails, prisons the 'new asylums'

May 18, 2011 at 1:19 PM
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INDIANA, Pa., May 18 (UPI) -- U.S. jails are being called the "new asylums" because they are filled with mentally ill men and women, two criminologists say.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania criminology Professor Dr. Rosemary Gido and Dr. Lanette Dalley, an IUP criminology alumna now at the University of Denver, say mentally ill women are largely incarcerated because of de-institutionalization and the "war on drugs."

Mentally ill women outnumber mentally ill male offenders in jails and prisons and they are likely to have a history of co-occurring disorders and trauma, the researchers say.

The criminologists are co-authors of the book "Women's Mental Health Issues Across the Criminal Justice System," which focuses on suicide, trauma and deficiencies in jail intake, assessment and treatment.

The most recent jail diversion models for trauma-informed integrated models of treatment are also identified by the researchers. Jail diversion is a cooperative effort between police officers and mental health professionals to find alternatives to arrest, booking and jail detention for people whose minor criminal behavior is directly due to mental illness, substance abuse, or developmental disabilities, they say.

"These initiatives, while beginning to demonstrate success, offer but a glimmer of hope to mentally ill female offenders as they continue to be incarcerated in jails and prisons," the researchers say in a statement.

Gido and Dalley presented their findings at the Garda Police College in Ireland and at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in San Francisco.

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