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February 4, 2014

Prisons and mentally ill

NORMAN — Guards are the new frontline mental health workers and prisons are de facto mental institutions. In 2012, Oklahoma corrections officials dispensed 52 percent more medications than they did in 2010 at a cost of about $1.3 million.

Oklahoma Watch recently detailed the state mental health treatment inside state prisons. The story was published in Sunday’s Transcript and in newspapers throughout the state.

In the past five years, the percentage of incarcerated inmates disagnosed with mental illness has nearly doubled from 20 percent to 36 percent.

The number of inmates on psychotropic medications has climbed by 50 percent since 2007 to 6,200 this past year, according to department records.

Prisons pick up many inmates who would have been in-patients at former psychiatric hospitals. A former psychologist for the prisons said half of the inmates with severe mental illness should not be in prison.

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