Almost 90 percent of Taycheedah Correctional Institution inmates have mental mental health needs, and more than 300 – 35 percent of the population – have serious mental health illnesses, according to state budget documents.
Overall, according to the Department of Corrections' 2019-21 budget request, 41 percent of state inmates have mental health issues. The percentages range from 98 percent at the Wisconsin Resource Center, which is designed to serve inmates with special mental health issues, to 0 percent at four smaller facilities.
Among prisons housing men, the Green Bay Correctional Institution has the highest rate – 55 percent – of inmates with mental health needs.
Critics decry the use of prisons as dumping grounds for people with mental health problems. The population of mentally ill inmates grew as communities closed down inpatient mental health facilities.
A 2016 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center said that mentally ill inmates remain in jail longer than other inmates, cost more to house than other inmates, cause problems that too often result in stays in solitary confinement, and are more likely than other inmates to commit suicide.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported last year that "14 percent of state and federal prisoners and 26 percent of jail inmates reported experiences that met the threshold for serious psychological distress (SPD)."
In contrast, just five percent of the general population met that threshold, according to the report, Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2011-12.
The incidence of mental illness is higher among female inmates than male inmates nationwide, the bureau said.
DOC officials recognized the significant needs of Taycheedah inmates in the prison's 2018 annual report.
Among the serious mental illnesses affecting inmates are "major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, and behavioral disorders, which significantly impact the inmate’s ability to function effectively," the report said.
"Less significant" mental health issues include "anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, and less disturbing mood disorders," the report said. "Approximately 74 percent of the inmates at TCI are prescribed psychotropic medications."
The prison has a 66-bed special unit for women with significant mental health needs and has psychiatric and psychology services.
The table below shows the levels of mental health needs and the numbers of inmates in each category for each state correctional facility. The table is based on a May 31 snapshot of innate populations.
The definition for each category is below the table. The definititions are taken largely from the DOC budget request.
MH-1 – The inmate is receiving mental health services but does not suffer from a serious mental illness. This code is not appropriate for inmates who are receiving only program services, such as substance abuse or sex offender treatment, and have no other mental health needs.
MH-2A – Inmates with serious mental illness:
A. Inmates with a current diagnosis of, or are in remission from, the following conditions:
B. Inmates with current or recent symptoms of the following conditions:
C. Inmates with head injury or other neurologic impairments that result in behavioral or emotional dyscontrol.
D. Inmates with chronic and persistent mood or anxiety disorders or other conditions that lead to significant functional disability.
MH-2B – Inmates with a primary personality disorder that is severe, accompanied by significant functional impairment, and subject to periodic decompensation; i.e., psychosis, depression, or suicidality. Those who qualify for both MH-2A and MH-2B are coded MH-2A.
By Margo Kirchner
Robert W. Huber Jr. spent 18 years too many in prison or on probation because of bureaucratic blunders and refusal to listen to his protests.
Now a federal appeals court has cleared the way for his civil rights lawsuit to proceed.
Huber is seeking damages for violations of his constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller granted summary judgment to the defendants, holding that Wisconsin’s six-year statute of limitations barred most of Huber’s claims and that no reasonable jury could find in Huber’s favor on any remaining ones.
Huber appealed. On Monday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, reinstated Huber’s claims, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate court denied Huber’s request to reassign the case to a different district judge, however.
Huber pleaded guilty in 1988 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court to fraudulently using another man’s credit card for charges totaling $800. His sentence, originally a four-year probation term, turned into a 25-year odyssey of probation and prison.
First, an additional three years of probation were tacked on because Huber failed to pay restitution.
“With that extension, his sentence should have ended on November 3, 1995,” U.S. Circuit Judge Diane P. Wood wrote for the three-judge panel of the Seventh District Court of Appeals. “But it did not.”
Wood was joined in her opinion by U.S. Circuit Judges Joel M. Flaum and Frank H. Easterbrook.
First, in May 1993 and while still on paper, Huber stopped showing up for appointments with his probation agent. He was arrested in November 1994, but the state did not move to revoke his probation or to extend it. His agent even wrote that his discharge date was “11-3-95.” Later, in her last entry before Huber’s discharge date, the agent wrote, “no changes – all ok.”
“November 3 came and went without any action; no release, no modification of Huber’s probation, no formal extension,” Wood wrote. “Two weeks later, without any reference to her repeated notes acknowledging the November 3, 1995 release date, (Probation Agent Gloria) Anderson issued an apprehension request for Huber.”
Huber argued for years that his probation term expired on the November 3, 1995 date. But, he alleges, various probation officers and Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) officials did little or nothing to investigate whether his probation was illegally extended. Not until October 2013 did officials determine that Huber was right.
Huber was arrested in January 1996, not terribly long after Anderson issued her apprehension request.
Anderson and her supervisor, Elizabeth Hartman, then told him that his probation had been suspended from May 1993 to November 1994 and he still had time to serve. They had him sign a form requesting reinstatement of his probation. Huber alleges that the form was blank at the time and changed later to make it appear that he admitted to absconding from probation.
Huber’s probation was extended to July 1998.
Another absconding led to more extensions, until in October 2000 Huber’s probation was revoked, resulting in a 10-year prison sentence for an $800 credit card fraud conviction that originally netted him four years of probation.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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