The history of corrections mental health care is one that involves the community at large, since many of the mentally ill inmates today come into the corrections system after being failed by community-based mental health facilities.
Back in the Day
Back in the early 1900s most of the mentally ill members of society were being treated through state-operated mental health facilities. Over the years many of those facilities have been closed down with the belief that those with mental health problems could be adequately cared for through community resources. Today, as much as 80% of the former state-operated mental health facilities have been closed down.
While community based programs are caring for many of societys mentally ill, there are many who do not receive the care they need. Most cannot afford to pay for their own care, some do not want to admit that they have a mental illness and seek treatment, and others have been through counseling and other programs but have not received adequate intervention to care for their serious mental illnesses.
A Change in the Wind
The end result has been an alarming increase in the number of mentally ill prison inmates who never received treatment for their conditions and ended up committing serious crimes. Prisons are not adequately funded or staffed to care for all of these inmates with mental health problems, so many still do not receive the care they need to bring their behaviors in line with what is acceptable by society.
The demand today for mental health care far exceeds what the corrections system was originally designed to handle. There have been programs started to help relieve some of the strain in most state prisons, but most of them are becoming inadequate as the number of mentally ill inmates increases.
Today, the state operated mental health institutions are being largely replaced by the prison system. As there are fewer resources for the mentally ill in society at large, more and more mentally challenged people end up in the criminal justice system.