Mental Health Problems Reported by Prison and Jail Inmates

Posted Jun 30, 2017

About 1 in 7 state and federal prisoners (14%) and 1 in 4 jail inmates (26%) reported experiences that met the threshold for serious psychological distress (SPD) in the 30 days prior to a survey conducted between February 2011 and May 2012. In comparison, the rate among the standardized general population was 5%.

A larger percentage of females in prison (20%) or jail (32%) than males in prison (14%) or jail (26%) met the threshold for SPD in the past 30 days.

Similarly, 37% of prisoners and 44% of jail inmates had been told in the past by a mental health professional that they had a mental disorder. Half of prisoners (50%) and a third of jail inmates (36%) either did not meet the threshold for SPD or had not been told they had a mental health disorder.

Among those who had been told they had a mental disorder, the largest percentage of prisoners (24%) and jail inmates (31%) reported they had a major depressive disorder.

These findings were reported in the Bureau of Justice Statistics' Special Report: Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2011-12, released in June 2017. The estimates are based on self-reported data obtained through the BJS 2011-12 National Inmate Survey. BJS is part of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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