Pennsylvania will include performance incentives and penalties in a new $91 million, five-year contract for mental health services at state prisons, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. State officials are touting the performance-incentive changes as a first-of-its kind contract. “No longer are we issuing contracts for just a service,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. Virginia-based MHM Services will receive incentives to reduce the number of misconduct cases for mentally ill offenders, reduce the number of inmates recommitted to mental health units and lower the number of recommitments to prison residential treatment units.
Twenty-one percent of state prison inmates — more than 10,000 people — receive mental health services. This year, the U.S. Department of Justice said it planned to investigate prisons statewide after finding a now-shuttered prison in Cambria County violated the rights of mentally ill inmates through prolonged and extreme isolation. Mental health services for inmates “absolutely has to be a priority,” said Ann Schwartzman, director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, a group that advocates for prisoners and their families. Schwartzman said her organization has been particularly concerned about an abundance of mentally ill inmates being placed in restricted housing units.