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Am J Public Health. 2014 Dec;104(12):2328-33. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302043. Epub 2014 Oct 16.

Mental health of prisoners: identifying barriers to mental health treatment and medication continuity.

Author information

Jennifer M. Reingle Gonzalez is with the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences, University of Texas School of Public Health, Dallas Regional Campus. Nadine M. Connell is with the University of Texas at Dallas.



We assessed mental health screening and medication continuity in a nationally representative sample of US prisoners.


We obtained data from 18‚ÄČ185 prisoners interviewed in the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities. We conducted survey logistic regressions with Stata version 13.


About 26% of the inmates were diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point during their lifetime, and a very small proportion (18%) were taking medication for their condition(s) on admission to prison. In prison, more than 50% of those who were medicated for mental health conditions at admission did not receive pharmacotherapy in prison. Inmates with schizophrenia were most likely to receive pharmacotherapy compared with those presenting with less overt conditions (e.g., depression). This lack of treatment continuity is partially attributable to screening procedures that do not result in treatment by a medical professional in prison.


A substantial portion of the prison population is not receiving treatment for mental health conditions. This treatment discontinuity has the potential to affect both recidivism and health care costs on release from prison.

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