A government report that was blocked from publication a decade ago, warned of the advancing health crisis of mental illness and substance abuse that has currently invaded the nation’s prison systems.
The 2006 document, prepared by then-Surgeon General Richard Carmona, urged government and community leaders to formulate a treatment strategy for thousands of sick and addicted inmates that would also assist them after release.
“This [report] has demonstrated that, far from being geographically and metaphorically separated from the community as was the case with Alcatraz Island, correctional facilities and those who pass through them are an integral part of the larger community,” Carmona wrote in the document.
According to Carmona, the George W. Bush administration rejected the 49-page report because they feared that an acknowledgement would require financial commitment that the administration was not willing to make.
Now, more than a decade after the prison report was completed, local, state and federal officials are struggling to address the same health emergency that was outlined in the report.
The report also highlighted concerns about the prevalence of infectious and chronic diseases and urged government officials to invest in a strategy that “could build on the positive outcomes of correctional health care in ways that would benefit the larger community” once inmates are released.
Substance abuse was identified as the “most prevalent ailment” among inmates, but mental illness was up to three times higher within U.S. jails and prisons than in the general public, the report found.
A USA Today report found that in 2014, an estimated 1.2 million people in state, local and federal custody reported some kind of mental health problem.
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