Despite escalating numbers of mentally ill prisoners, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has slashed by nearly half its group therapy sessions and pared back individual therapy for inmates, resulting in fewer offenders receiving preventive treatment.
The department’s psychologists, psychiatrists and related staff members instead are focusing on crisis intervention, reacting to things like suicide attempts and erratic or violent behavior.
Corrections officials say the shift is due to the growing numbers of inmates with mental-health problems, which reflects the overall surge in the inmate population in recent years. Also, the department is having trouble hiring mental-health professionals. Even the agency’s chief mental health officer, Dr. Janna Morgan, has had to travel the state to help intervene directly in crisis situations and hold therapy sessions.
As an example, a few months ago Morgan made repeated trips to the Jim E. Hamilton Correctional Center in Hogden in far eastern Oklahoma to help manage cases after a psychiatrist went on a leave of absence.
“That’s not something that anybody in this position before has done,” Morgan said, referring to her continual direct work with inmates.
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