Florida Proposes Measures to Treat Mentally Ill Inmates

By Desiree Bowie 10/13/14

The Department of Corrections will seek to reform how prisons handle inmates suffering from mental illness.

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Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Crews announced last week a number of measures aimed at ensuring the appropriate care and custody for Florida inmates with mental health conditions and protecting public safety.

Secretary Crews’ announcement came on the heels of a comprehensive review of the department’s policies toward the care of inmates with mental illness. The review was conducted by Dr. Dean Aufderheide, a nationally recognized expert in mental health care, and Mr. Upchurch, a nationally recognized expert in institutional and security operations.

The News Service of Florida reported that some of the measures include that Florida inmates with severe mental illnesses will have an official mediator to represent them, and prison staff will undergo more training under the latest reforms initiated by Crews.

Crews on Friday announced the changes, including the creation of a “mental health ombudsman” position. The ombudsman, the first in the country according to a press release issued by Crews’ office, will serve as a liaison for about 1,000 mentally ill inmates in inpatient units and will report to the department’s director of mental health services, Dr. Aufderheide, who made the recommendations.

Secretary Crews, in a press release for the Department of the Corrections, said: “The Department is responsible for the custody of between 15 and 20% of its inmates having a diagnosed mental condition requiring mental health treatment. We are committed to ensure our actions are reflective of the Department’s mission to promote public safety and the safety of our staff and our inmates by providing them appropriate security, supervision, and care.”

In addition, the Department anticipates a Corrections Behavioral Health Certification made available in the near future that will certify officers assigned to the care of inmates to understand the mental health spectrum of issues, from the time an inmate first enters prison throughout the incarceration period.

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Desiree Bowie is a writer and movie lover from Los Angeles, California. Follow her on Twitter @dangerbowie