The most violent prisons in the Texas share a common factor: They house a high proportion of mentally ill inmates, the Texas Tribune reports. Violent-incident data from 99 state prisons from 2006 to 2012 show far more reports at facilities housing high numbers of mentally ill, violent offenders than at other prisons. Michele Deitch of the University of Texas says the data raise questions about the staff's ability to manage inmates and keep prisoners and officers safe.
State officials say the numbers do not tell the whole story. They say state facilities are safe, and programs aimed at helping mentally ill inmates are working. “I think we do a very good job taking care of what we do here,” said Barry Martin, a senior warden. The state is facing an increase in prisoners requiring psychiatric care, a trend seen nationwide in recent decades. The number of inmates treated for mental illness by the University of Texas Medical Branch, which provides most inmate care in Texas, grew from about 14,500 in August 2008 to nearly 17,900 in August 2012. More than 15 percent of the more than 151,000 inmates have been given a diagnosis of some form of mental illness.