Treatment Policies and Programs for Mentally Ill Offenders: A comparison of Kentucky and the Nation

Irina R. Soderstrom, Eastern Kentucky University


Approximately 10-15% of the nearly 6 million offenders in U.S. Jails, prisons or on probation or parole, suffer from mental illness. Correctional systems are legally mandated to provide treatment, yet they are overwhelmed with the high costs associated with specialized staff training, the hiring of professional mental health providers, psychotropic medications and specialized housing. This article discusses the prevalence of the problem of the continually increasing numbers of offenders in need of mental health services. The article also presents the results of a national survey of the chief mental health administrators for the state correctional systems across the United States. The survey inquired about the areas of screening, assessment, classification, treatment services, suicide prevention, aftercare, and general perceptions of mental/behavioral health services administrators. Comparisons are made between the State of Kentucky and the rest of the nation. The results indicated that while there are many similarities across the states, there are some marked differences as well, particularly as they relate to suicide prevention and aftercare.