In this day no one can deny the importance of delivering adequate and, indeed, appropria te men ta I health services in American prisons. Too often, in the distant past, our society ignored this need and dosed the prisons' doors. Recognition of this issue has dawned recently, but progress must seem slow to those who are seriously involved in this work. Our comparative lack of progress surely is not due to an unawareness of the need or insufficient professional interest in the material. Instead, it is due to lack of funds, inadequate salaries, and perhaps, as is the case in certain aspects of other professions, a shortage of those who are willing to dedicate their lives to subjects they find of interest and service despite the inadequacy of financial return.
I am heartened by the growing awareness and presence of assistance in this area in federal institutions such as those operated by the Bureau of Prisons. The essays in this issue o/ Psychiatric Annals give evidence of the richness of the material and possibility of contributions that are genuine, and of sympathetic service to an unfortunate segment of our very selves. Essays and work of this kind, exemplified by these articles that explain and seek to attack the problems, will help to brighten what is otherwise a dark corner of our society. These patients/inmates, after all* are our responsibility.
- U.S. Supreme Court Associate /astice Harry A. Blackmun
The mental health care problems that confront the wiser society are mirrored in our prison population. As these papers show, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is working toward solutions through programs that address the psychiatric needs of the prison population. These articles detail issues crucial to mental health care for federal offenders and describe the unique aspects of psychiatric services within the Bureau of Prisons.
Taken together, these articles illustrate the dimension of mental health care in the Bureau of Prisons. As we come to understand these problems more fully, perhaps new solutions can be found that apply to our prisoners and the community as well. The challenge of delivering mental health care to these offenders can be met with increased awareness and research on those with mental health and drug treatment needs. As we look toward the future of corrections, the role of mental health professionals will continue to be a part of the Bureau's strategic planning.
- J. Michael Quinlan