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On the outside, I had a therapist and I had the psychiatrist, the one who gave me the medications. Both of them were attentive and listened to what I had to say. It’s hard to get through something here, because you don’t have the therapy time. You just get the medications. … I’ll go lay down, and I’ll just cry. I don’t know what else to do. I still do sometimes when it gets frustrating. It’s hard when you got a problem and you try to communicate with somebody and they just don’t give a crap. -Robert Harmony, prisoner at SOCF

People in solitary confinement aren’t the only ones who are affected by the lack of treatment and programming. Correctional officers must attempt to respond to prisoners’ needs, often without the training or resources to do so. 

“People need proper diagnosis when they enter prison. Those mental health issues are exacerbated by incarceration. Officers don’t usually know until the prisoner goes off the deep end, and then it’s a real security problem.” –Anonymous Ohio Corrections Officer

We have nothing to occupy our minds. All we can do is sit, think, and let our head play tricks on us. Sometimes there is video group where we watch National Geographic animal videos and draw. The whole mental health system is horrible at SOCF. I sit in my cell all day and think. I try to block out the voices I hear. My meds help a little, but not all the way. I feel like the walls breathe sometimes, and the cell gets smaller. The isolation drives me crazy. It traps me with my thoughts, and I’m my own worst enemy. –David Cooper, prisoner at SOCF

Putting people in isolation is devastating and makes recovery next to impossible. If you did not have a mental illness going into isolation, it is likely you will when you are released. Even if you have no prior history of mental illness, people subjected to prolonged isolation may experience depression, anxiety, hallucinations, or problems with impulse control or their ability to think, concentrate, or remember. A federal judge said putting people with mental illness in solitary confinement is the mental equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air to breathe. ODRC recognizes these risks. All people placed in level 5 for more than a year are given an elevated monitoring status by mental health professionals, regardless of whether they have a mental illness. The elevated monitoring is intended to catch signs of deteriorating mental health and to intervene before it becomes severe.

“They pass out a packet to you and tell you they going to reward you with a picture or reward you with something if you do it. I don’t even answer the questions. I just flip through and write anything … People even pay me, when I take they stuff, and I’ll write in my handwriting anything on the stuff and give it back to the person and he’ll pass. They don’t even look at it. They don’t even look at the stuff.” -Anonymous, prisoner at SOCF Even when people in prison are offered counseling or meetings with mental health staff, they are not able to take full advantage of the opportunities. Corrections officers are often present for programming and individual meetings between the prisoner and mental health staff, despite prisoners’ concerns about confidentiality.

Despite the large numbers of individuals with mental illness in solitary confinement and the detrimental impact of solitary confinement on mental health, effective mental health treatment is lacking in Ohio’s solitary confinement units. When asked in our survey about what services they receive, many individuals with mental illness at SOCF and OSP stated that services were not consistent. For ODRC as a whole, the average cost per day for a prisoner is $61, only $3.06 of which is spent on mental health and recovery services.


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