According to a March 18th article in The New York Times, there has been a surge in violence within New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex and other jails across the country. In particular, correction officers have struggled with an increasing concentration of mentally ill individuals who experts say often respond defiantly or erratically to the harsh, zero-tolerance disciplinary measures successfully employed in the past.
The situation at Rikers Island mirrors an “epidemic of violence” in big-city jails across the country, said Dr. James Gilligan, a clinical professor of psychiatry and co-author of a 2013 report that found the treatment of mentally ill individuals at Rikers Island violated the city’s mental health standards. He said an overreliance on solitary confinement and force at Rikers Island and elsewhere perpetuated violence, particularly among the mentally ill, who have crowded the nation’s correctional facilities as mental hospitals and other institutions have closed.
The proportion of people in prison with a diagnosed mental illness has grown to 40 percent, from 20 percent, over the last eight years, according to the Correction Department. These people are responsible for about two-thirds of infractions at city jails, the department said.
Read the whole article here: “Rikers Island Struggles With a Surge in Violence and Mental Illness“