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Why Determine the Prevalence of Mental Illnesses in Jails and Prisons?
Seth J. Prins, M.P.H.
Psychiatric Services 2014; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.650809
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Mr. Prins is with the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York City

Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association


To the Editor: Draine and Muñoz-Laboy’s (1) commentary on my review (2) in the July issue raises a point that is crucial (although they misattribute a motivating logic to my analysis): targeting an individual risk factor for incarceration, such as mental illness, will likely not reduce incarceration rates. This is because the causes of individual “cases” of incarceration are almost certainly not the same as the causes of changes in incidence rates of incarceration (3). This is true of any individual-level intervention for a population (social) phenomenon. Furthermore, research has shown that incarceration rates for people with mental illness have remained relatively stable (4). So why obtain better prevalence estimates of mental illness in prisons?

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Draine  J;  Muñoz-Laboy  M:  Not just variation in estimates: deinstitutionalization of the justice system.  Psychiatric Services 65:873, 2014
Prins  SJ:  Prevalence of mental illnesses in US state prisons: a systematic review.  Psychiatric Services 65:862–873, 2014
Rose  G:  Sick individuals and sick populations.  International Journal of Epidemiology 14:32–38, 1985
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
Frank  RG;  Glied  SA:  Better but Not Well: Mental Health Policy in the United States Since 1950 .  Baltimore,  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006
Drucker  E:  A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America .  New York,  New Press, 2011
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