Center on Sentencing and Corrections

An Overview of Correctional Psychiatry

An Overview of Correctional Psychiatry

Metzner, Jeffrey, and Joel Dvoskin. “An overview of correctional psychiatry.” Psychiatric Clinics 29, no. 3 (2006): 761-772.

“Supermax facilities may be an unfortunate and unpleasant necessity in modern corrections. Because of the serious dangers posed by prison gangs, they are unlikely to disappear completely from the correctional landscape any time soon. But such units should be carefully reserved for those inmates who pose the most serious danger to the prison environment. Further, the constitutional duty to provide medical and mental health care does not end at the supermax door. There is a great deal of common ground between the opponents of such environments and those who view them as a necessity. No one should want these expensive beds to be used for people who could be more therapeutically and safely managed in mental health treatment environments. No one should want people with serious mental illnesses to be punished for their symptoms. Finally, no one wants these units to make people more, instead of less, dangerous. It is in everyone’s interests to learn as much as possible about the potential of these units for good and for harm. Corrections is a profession, and professions base their practices on data. If we are to avoid the most egregious and harmful effects of supermax confinement, we need to understand them far better than we currently do. Though there is a role for advocacy from those supporting or opposed to such environments, there is also a need for objective, scientifically rigorous study of these units and the people who live there.”

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Keywords: psychology, violence, isolation, behavior, forensic psychiatry.