NC prisons on mental illness

Dear readers,

Hey guys, if you missed my last blog post you can check it out here. Today I want to focus on how North Carolina prisons are dealing with mental illness and mentally ill inmates. Over these past couple of weeks through researching the different aspects of conditions within North Carolina prisons, I have come across several cases of neglect against mentally ill inmates. One that has recently been circulating in the news and on social media is the case of Michael Anthony Kerr, which I discussed in a previous post.

Roughly 4,600, or 12 percent, of North Carolina’s total prison population require mental health care. And unfortunately, not all the inmates requiring this medical attention receive it. North Carolina corrections chief David Guice has requested that $20 million go to the improvement of the treatment of inmates with mental illness in state prison’s. This funding is hoped to cover the expenses of 300 additional mental health care staff for the state, an additional 64 for Central Prison’s mental health unit, and 76 probation officers. Corrections chief David Guice openly stated at a meeting of the state’s Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety, that this won’t be cheap especially considering how underfunded the system is. He continues to state that budget cuts have “emptied one-third of the beds at Central Prison’s inpatient unit for severely mentally ill inmates.” Although Guice tells the public that the state has already taken action and implemented changes, reports of the treatment of the inmates with mental illness prove otherwise. These individuals are still being subject to negligence and cruelty through the over-practice of solitary confinement and the lack of health care.

How long can prison system’s wait to implement reforms that are clearly necessary? You would think that after the death of Michael Anthony Kerr, officials would be going to great lengths to correct their mistakes made.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the government should put more money toward state prisons? Let me know what you think and check back next week!


7 thoughts on “NC prisons on mental illness”

  1. I completely agree that prisoners with your idea that mental health issues need to be treated. Even though they are imprisoned, they are still humans and I believe that proper healthcare should be a right. With that said, there is obviously a whole lot going on in prisons and I doubt the mental health of the prisoners are officials’ primary concern. Unfortunately, I think it’s true that our prison systems don’t exactly value their prisoners. Maybe I’m just thinking of what I’ve seen of Orange is the New Black, but there’s a reason no one wants to go to prison. I would also assume that even those who go into prison without mental health problems develop some over time in that environment. So maybe it is something more funding could solve by providing more resources. Or maybe it’s more about how urgent prison officials treat this problem.


    1. Hey! Thanks for commenting! You bring up a lot of good points. I think that recognizing that these people are more than just inmates and are human too is something a lot of people don’t think about. I feel like this is why this is such a forgotten topic and the reason behind the disvalue of our inmates. And you’re right; Orange is the New Black is a great example (aside from the dramatization). If you’ve ever researched the show and read reviews the show does a good job at presenting the struggles inmates face in a female low security prison. It sheds light on the corruption. And yes you’re right to say that those who don’t have mental health problems are seriously affected in that environment. There have been several studies to prove that and is actually something I mentioned in a previous post. I will be honest, I think that correcting these problems goes way beyond additional funding and instead is something that is going to take time, education, and advocates to undo the years of malpractice.


  2. I strongly agree with the post and the statistics provided. Every prisoner in the system regardless of his/hers status should be receiving proper mental healthcare. I believe the purpose of the prison system is to rehabilitate individuals so they can function adequately in society. If prisoners are not undergoing mental health care the system is not functioning and it is just draining the money devoted to it. I agree with the person in the previous comment, our prison systems are more concerned with controlling and keeping the society safe, than actually helping and rehabilitating those that are mentally ill. I feel like society has no need for people that are mentally ill; probably due to the lack of productiveness that the individual can provide for it. I hope more people begin to realize this big mistake, in my opinion and begin to act upon it before prisons become largely overcrowded (if they haven’t already).


  3. I think your blog post is very thought provoking and brings up a lot of good points. I think it is a horrible environment that prison inmates have to live in, especially those that are that are mentally disabled. I think that those that suffer from a mental illness should be taken care of and provided health care and proper treatment. You post has also brought the question into mind, of whether or not those with diagnosable mental illnesses should be kept in a separate facility, away from the rest of the inmates, allowing better treatment options. Also, the costs are high associated with these medical costs for these individuals. These are interesting to look at, and compare to how much it would cost providing medical access to individuals with mental illnesses from an early age, to avoid later costs. Like mentioned in the earlier comments, I don’t believe that mental health and health in general is a primary concern. Officials believe that a prisons job is to keep dangerous people behind bars, however, these people need to be given proper care. Also, the primary goal of a prison might be to rehabilitate people, and by not providing medical care, the officials often make the situation worse.
    -Girl 2


    1. Hi! Thanks for commenting! I’m glad you like this post because I think this an important one that deserves more attention than it has received. You’ve brought up a good point about possibly keeping mentally ill inmates in a separate facility. Although I would support that idea, my only criticism is that I cannot see the government/prison systems willingly wanting to fund that operation. Sadly, after spending so much time researching this topic I have created such a negative outlook on the prisons systems willingness to better the inmates living conditions and overall quality of life. And you and your fellow commenters are right to say that mental illness and the mentally ill are NOT primary concerns to the facilities. In my opinion they consider them a financial burden. And I understand that they are inmates and have wrongfully done society, but that does not mean they should not receive proper treatment. I think that if prison systems spent less time focusing on control, power, and money and instead spent more time focusing on the well being of inmates they would see much improvement in and outside the prison.


  4. Hey jlrust!
    Thank you for yet another insightful post. Personally, I think that this issue is incredibly important, and has not been given the attention it needs. It is so significant because not giving mentally ill patients the treatment they need is not justified, and has harmful effects for everyone involved if care is being neglected. Hopefully this will change soon.

    I think it is great that there are reforms being made on this front, and I think you did a great job of portraying them. Although, I do notice that you said they aren’t doing enough. I do think that I agree with you, but I am wondering why you say that, and what things you think still need to be reformed on this front?

    Also, and I don’t know if this would be easy to find, but I was wondering what possible “side-effects” to this negligence is? Of course, I understand that it is inhumane towards prisoners with mental illness, but does it make their illness worse, or affect the mental health of other prisoners?


    1. Hi rainbowunicorn2! Thanks for commenting!

      I’m so glad you find as much importance in this topic as I do. What I meant by saying that prisons still need reform is that although actions have been taken (or attempted) there is still so much unnecessary negligence to consider it successful prison reform. I think there is so much more they can do to correct this problem than what is currently being done. What really concerns me is that even after they implement the 300 additional mental health staff and 76 probation officers, will they stop their reliance on solitary confinement and unequal treatment of mentally ill inmates? I have a hard believing that these practices will just disappear. Concerning your question regarding the possible side effects of this negligence, if you look back at one of my previous posts I talked about how the overuse of solitary confinement exacerbates mental illness and even gives stable inmates psychiatric symptoms. So I feel like from what I know I can only assume that the same goes for negligence toward the mentally ill.


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