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Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0787943615
ISBN-10: 0787943614
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Kupers, a forensic psychiatrist and psychology professor at the Wright Institute, has been an active observer at county jails for 25 years and has served as an expert witness in court cases involving treatment of prisoners. Here he delivers a powerful and constructive criticism of the attitudes prison professionals hold toward inmates and the way inmates are physically handled, especially the mentally disturbed but also women and racial minorites. He focuses on abysmal physical conditions, unsanitary and often physically threatening overcrowding, the traumatization and debasement of prisoners, worker burn-out, and woefully inadequate inpatient, psychiatric, or counseling services, contributing to increasing individual dysfunction and financed by taxpayers. Kupers concludes his cogent presentation by suggesting strategies for a quantum shift in mindset (madness no longer seen as badness) to realize a climate of, at least, support for the basic constitutional and human rights of prisoners. Highly recommended for academics and professionals.ASuzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Alfred
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A passionately argued and brilliantly written wake-up call to America about the myriad ways our penal systems brutalize our entire culture. Dr. Kupers not only diagnoses the problem, he also offers a set of solutions. I hope this book will be read by all concerned citizens and voters, for it conveys truths that are vitally important to all of us." (James Gilligan, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and author of Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic)

"A chilling picture of how American prisons have become among the most barbaric in the world driving petty offAnders and dangerous people alike into madness. We must consider the madness of a public policy that routinely turns nonviolent offAnders into dangerous misfits who threaten our safety when released." (Joseph D. McNamara, research fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and retired police chief, San Jose, California)

"Dr. Kupers reminds us that cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of inmates-particularly those who are mentally ill-violates their rights, betrays our national commitment to decency, and jeopardizes the safety of our communities. A splendid book." (Jamie Fellner, associate counsel, Human Rights Watch)

"Prison Madness reveals the disturbing realities of prisons and jails as places of coerced refuge for poor and mentally disordered people. With this powerful and provocative analysis of the intersecting crises in the public mental health and prison systems, Terry Kupers shows us how to contest the racism and the criminalization of poverty that have helped to produce these dangerous dilemmas." (Angela Y. Davis, professor, University of California, Santa Cruz)

" . . . Kupers had free access and unfettered contacts that few outsiders are afforded, and has credibility that few outsiders can acquire." (Hans Toch, from the Foreword)

"Prison Madness--with its cogent analysis of our correctional system and the mental health crisis within it--can serve as a much-needed beacon." (Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1st edition (February 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787943614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787943615
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #753,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Erich E. Geary on October 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I was initially excited, because the premise of this book is that the mentally ill are being incarcerated and criminalized because of the failure of comunity mental health, and the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill. Most people do not realize that the prisons are rapidly becomming the largest providers of mental health services, as is the case in TX. Kupers goes off track and has his own agenda. This book becomes a polemic for diagnosing all inmates as PTSD, just because they are in prison. His claim that as an outsider he is more than objective. I believe the book reports on many problems in a lot of prisons. I kept waiting for him to address, in a meaningful way, managed care and privatization of services. The issue of the mentally ill in prison is a growing problem. I would hope that those who read the book, will try to open dialog about the problems and possible solutions. I work for the managed care organization that provides mental heath services to TX prisons, and many of Kuper's points hit home. I have already recommended the book to my colleges.
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Format: Hardcover
For the past several decades, the primary provider of care for the severely mentally ill in the USA has been the criminal justice system. Jails and prisons were not designed to care for this population. PRISON MADNESS shows how, willy-nilly, the job was foisted on them, and just how badly they do it. The book sketches the history of the criminalization of severe mental illness: (deinstitutionalization, homelessness, racism, an increasingly punitive political culture ). The book then explores prison conditions which makes things worse: crowding and noise, a culture of brutality, the perpetual threat of rape, the prison code.

My review focuses on one aspect of the book. It may be unique in identifying the issues confronting clinicians in these settings. I take issue with many of his opinions, but I believe Dr. Kupers presents the reality mental health workers face in prisons.

He brings two assets to this work. First, is emotional integrity. He does not hide behind the mask of feigned objectivity. He proclaims his passion for social justice. He is open to hearing what prisoners have to say; he wants to hear their stories. He acknowledges his own emotional process: the more he listened to prisoners, the more he tuned them out so he could get on with his assigned work.

Second, he thinks holistically. Clinicians are trained in either/or thinking. Where clinicians tend to argue that a patient was either mentally ill before entering prison or that prison drove him mad, he shows that both statements are true.

Prison draws many severely mentally ill; prison makes them worse. Mentally disordered men are ill equipped to deal with prison. Responding to command hallucinations, they appear disrespectful and threatening.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Kupers writes honestly about where those who were "saved" by deinstitutionalization ended up and they way they are being treated. It is a scathing indictment of the utter failure of community mental health centers and the professionals practicing within them. It clearly shows how persons are forgotten, ignored or dismissed by community supports and the eventual freefall they experience into corrections. He artfully describes the negativistic labeling, i.e., Borderline or Antisocial Personality Disorders, and the damage done by such perjorative terms. Dr. Kupers shows clearly what is occurring in jails and prisons across the country and lets the reader know this is not the end of the story of the emptying of the hospitals, but the next chapter in the abuse/neglect of the most maligned and oppressed population in America. Thank you Dr. Kupers, for your courage, integrity, and honesty.
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