An investigation over a decade in the making has lead the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to abolish solitary confinement as a punishment for inmates with serious mental illness. The DOC will now create specialized units that will treat inmates with “intellectual disability or mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and major depression.”
While the decision is a step in the right direction, Jeff Draine, chair in the School of Social Work within Temple University College of Public Health says there is still more that must be done to help respond to inmates with these types of illnesses.
"They lump in intellectual disability with psychiatric illnesses in the category of serious mental illness, and those are actually things that should be responded to differently," said Draine, who has studied mental illness in the correctional system for 25 years.
The definition, he said, also leaves out many other inmates, such as those who have experienced trauma and who also deserve an appropriate response.
Dr. Draine’s research focuses on mental illness, HIV, substance use and aging in the context of the criminal justice system. He recently edited a special issue of the American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation in Social Justice and Psychiatric Rehabilitation.