April 6, 2001 (AUGUSTA, Maine) – The Maine Legislature is considering a bill that would require psychiatric evaluations for all prison inmates and better treatment for those diagnosed with mental illness.
The state Department of Corrections opposes the bill, arguing that it would be too costly. A study by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill determined that as many as one-quarter of the inmates in Maine’s jails and prisons may have psychiatric disorders.
Witnesses at a hearing Thursday included mental health professionals and relatives who described inmates stripped naked or near-naked and chained up because guards did not know how to deal with them. Some professionals said that the mentally ill become trapped in a cycle where they get worse in prison and commit more serious offenses once they are released, returning for a longer sentence.
Maine law would upgrade treatment of mentally ill inmates.