Do You Have to Get a Mental Health Screening When You Go to Prison?

Do You Have to Get a Mental Health Screening When You Go to Prison?

Yes. You have to get a mental health screening at prison intake. Usually, these screenings just consist of a few question and aren’t full evaluations. But prisons need to provide mental health care treatment as well.

Does every prisoner get a mental health screening?

Yes. The BOP screens every prisoner. This intake screening is not a full evaluation. It is part of the intake process. In fact, it usually just consists of a few standard questions. Staff may refer some prisoners to a full evaluation. Common examples include:

  • People who have a documented mental health designation.
  • Prisoners who shows symptoms of a possible mental illness.
  • Someone who takes medication or other treatment for mental illness.

If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you likely won’t get any further screening.

Image of prison mental health screening.
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

What questions do they ask you at an intake screening?

The BOP asks every prisoner a set of questions about their mental health. These questions identify at-risk prisoners. These include:

  • Did you ever receive treatment for a nervous or mental problem?
  • Have you ever taken or are you now taking any medication for a nervous or mental problem?
  • Did you ever seriously consider suicide?
  • Have you ever attempted suicide?
  • Are you seriously considering suicide now?
  • Are you experiencing nervousness or anxiety now?
  • Have you used drugs in the two years before arrest?

Answer the questions truthfully. If you need help, you can get it in prison.

What do they look for at an intake screening?

In a word: safety. Prisons want to know that you will be safe. They also want to know that your peers will be safe. The same goes for their staff. This mental health screening tells them if they need to take extra precautions. It can also help them decide if you need medication. For example, suicidal prisoners will be supervised. A prison might isolate someone who shows signs of aggression. This screening can also show doctors if you need more care.

Which mental health services do prisons have?

The BOP requires prisons to provide mental health services. Mental health services you’ll have access to in prison include:

  • Crisis intervention.
  • Emergency services.
  • Risk assessment for acts of self-harm or harm toward others.
  • Non-intake mental health screenings.
  • Detox from alcohol and other drugs.
  • Treatment of some mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.
  • Continuing treatment you had before prison or at another facility.
  • Monitoring prisoners who are taking medications.
  • Diagnostic services.
  • Psychiatric treatment for severe mental illnesses.

Not every prison offers each of these services. But they can work with other facilities to provide them.

Image of prison mental health screening.
Image courtesy of Nothing Ahead from Pexels..

The Takeaway:

You must complete a mental health screening when you go to prison. It is part of the intake process. The screening consists of just a few questions. Staff will use your answers to decide where to house you. They may want to give you a full evaluation. You can get mental health treatment in prison.

Interested in learning about how mental health issues are addressed in prison? Want to find out how to file legal claims on behalf of a loved one? Stay tuned to How To Justice for more info about the prison system.

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