The federal prison system has spent more than $36.5 million on psychotropic drugs to treat thousands of offenders in four years, reports USA Today. Nearly 10 percent of the 216,000 inmates are receiving medications designed to treat an array of illnesses, from depression and bipolar disorder to acute schizophrenia. Government officials have raised questions about the costs of confining such large populations. Advocates for the mentally ill argue that prisons and jails have become the new repository for people with mental illness. The annual drug costs have been declining because of the increasing availability of generic medications, but the number of inmates being treated has remained steady.
Nearly 20,000 federal inmates are on psychotropic medications. About 25 percent of the Justice Department budget supports the BOP’s operation. In an attempt to ease overcrowding, the U.S. Sentencing Commission last week approved a measure that would make nearly 50,000 inmates eligible for sentence reductions. Eric Young, national president of the federal prison employees union known as the Council of Prison Locals, said the number of inmates on medication likely represents only a fraction of those with a mental illness or behavioral disorders who have not been diagnosed or have elected not to take medication.