Mentally ill inmates at America’s toughest federal prison alleged that they got psychological treatment not from trained professionals but from “educational” TV shows and workbooks, according to The New York Times.
Now that a landmark lawsuit has been filed against the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado over its treatment of mentally ill inmates, outside forensic psychiatrists have been allowed to enter ADX and evaluate prisoners for themselves for the first time since the facility opened its doors in 1994.
What they are learning is far from reassuring. Of the 45 ADX prisoners evaluated by Denver-based forensic psychiatrist Dr. Doris Gundersen, at least 70% met the criteria for at least one serious mental illness, according to the Times. Despite these figures, ADX allegedly has only two psychologists and one part-time psychiatrist on-call to serve the prison’s 500 inmates.
Inmates evaluated by Dr. Gundersen told her that they had been denied treatment for their mental health issues, despite repeated pleas for help. The only guidance they allegedly received for managing their mood swings and suicidal thoughts came from workbooks with titles like “Cage Your Rage” and “therapy classes” on the prison television’s educational station.
“Cage Your Rage: An Inmate’s Guide to Anger Control” is described by the publisher as a “self-study” workbook that aims to help inmates understand what anger is and how to manage it.
It is “the perfect rehabilitation resource for inmates in prisons, jails, and detention centres,” the author, psychologist Murray C. Cullen, says in the book’s online description.
While some prisons use the book in conjunction with professional psychological treatment (usually in the form of group therapy or one-on-one sessions), inmates at ADX claimed they were expected to work through the text — and their anger — alone.
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