U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Mental Health Treatment in State Prisons, 2000

SUNDAY, July 15, 2001 202/307-0784


WASHINGTON, D.C. - On June 30, 2000, 1,394 of the nation's 1,558 adult state correctional facilities provided some type of mental health services to their inmates, according to a new report from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

Almost 70 percent of the state adult correctional facilities reported that as a matter of policy they screen inmates at intake: 65 percent conduct psychiatric assessments, 51 percent provide 24-hour mental health care, 71 percent provide therapy and/or counseling by trained mental health professionals, 73 percent distribute psychotropic medications and 66 percent help released prisoners obtain community mental health services. One in every eight state prisoners was receiving some type of mental health therapy.

At midyear 2000 an estimated 191,000 state prisoners, about 16 percent of all inmates, were identified as mentally ill. Of the mentally ill, almost 79 percent were receiving therapy or counseling. About 60 percent of the mentally ill inmates were receiving psychotropic medications, including anti-depressants, stimulants, sedatives, tranquilizers or other anti-psychotic drugs.

About 10 percent, or 18,900 of the mentally ill inmates were housed in a 24-hour mental health unit. Approximately two-thirds of all state inmates who were in therapy or receiving medications were in facilities that did not specialize in mental health services.

Twelve state facilities were primarily for mental health or psychiatric confinement, and an additional 143 state institutions reported they specialized in mental health treatment. Together, these facilities had the capacity to house more than 217,000 inmates, and they were operating at 100 percent of their rated capacity.

The percentage of inmates in mental health therapy or receiving medication was higher in female prisons. More than one in four female prisoners were in therapy and one in five were on medication.

One in every 10 state inmates was receiving psychotropic medication. The states with the highest percentage of inmates receiving such psychotropic medication, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, reported that approximately 20 percent of their inmates were receiving medications. In Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska and Wyoming at least one in four inmates were in mental health therapy or counseling programs.

Only three states, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Wyoming, had no special psychiatric facilities and placed prisoners who needed to be segregated in state hospitals, prison infirmaries or in special needs units within general confinement facilities.

The report, "Mental Health Treatment in State Prisons" (NCJ-188215), reflects data as of June 30, 2000, and was based on the census of prisons. Excluded were locally operated jails and federal facilities. The report was written by BJS statisticians Allen J. Beck and Laura M. Maruschak. Single copies may be obtained from the BJS clearinghouse number: 1-800-851-3420. Fax orders for mail delivery to 410/792-4358.

After the release date this report will be available at:


The BJS Internet site is:


Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained from the Office of Justice Programs homepage at:


# # #

After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

Date Published: July 15, 2001