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The New Asylums | PBS America

The New Asylums | PBS America

There are nearly half a million mentally ill people serving time in America's prisons and jails. As sheriffs and prison wardens become the custodians of this burgeoning population, how can a penal system cope with a problem that it was never designed to solve?

With exclusive and unprecedented access to prison therapy sessions, mental health treatment meetings, crisis wards and prison disciplinary tribunals, this documentary goes deep inside Ohio's state prison system to explore the topic of mental health behind bars. Reginald Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department of Corrections, complains that he has become the de facto director of a mental health system. As the rising number of mentally ill inmates shows no sign of abating, those working inside the nation's prisons are struggling with a system designed for punishment rather than rehabilitation. Such a case is Carl McEachron, sent to prison for stealing a bicycle in 1988. Carl has spent much of his time in prison in isolation. His mental illness was left undiagnosed and untreated until recently. Eventually, a majority of mentally ill inmates are released back into the community, generally with a limited amount of medication, little preparation and sometimes no family or support structure. This frequently leads to their reoffending, as occurred in the case of Sigmon Clark, a paranoid schizophrenic who was rearrested for robbery within six days of being paroled.

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