Hospitalizing People for Mental Illness Can Be Worse Than Putting Them in Prison


In the Hartford Courant, Chandra Bozelko states that she’s been involuntarily committed to hospitals for psychiatric treatment and has also served time in prison. People should realize, she writes, that most psychiatric hospitals are in many ways even less therapeutic than prisons.

“Critics of the hyper-incarceration happening in the United States want to shift the mentally ill population back to hospitals, places where they can at least receive treatment,” writes Bozelko. “But, based on my experiences, there is virtually no treatment going on inside psychiatric hospitals; they provide little more than medication, the same pills delivered by prison nurses to inmates.”

In hospital, Bozelko describes minimal meetings with psychiatrists, no individual psychotherapy, and spending days “wandering or watching TV.”

“I received the same sub-par mental health care at a prison but the atmosphere was unexpectedly more therapeutic behind bars than it was in a psych ward.” For example, Bozelko writes, “Unlike hospitals, prisons require their wards to work and contribute to the correctional facility’s daily upkeep. Inmates work in the kitchen preparing meals, cleaning, maintaining the grounds, shelving books in the library, unpacking commissary wares or sewing.”

Bozelko felt “useless” in the hospital, but the prison work made her feel that she had a “responsibility” and duty to the community. “You can be reliable, diligent and valuable to others even when you don’t feel that way, even when everyone says you are not.”

Hospital Or Jail — Connecticut Mental Illness Care Lacking (Hartford Courant, January 16, 2015)


  1. Wonderful condemnation of the kind of “help” you get in mental hospitals, which implies that you are of no use to society. “The social workers who should have been conducting group therapy came at me repeatedly with disability applications.” And, I agree with the writer than Adam Lanza’s problem was anger.

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  2. No shit there’s no way prison could ever be worse than a mental hospital, prison is real, you know why you’re there.

    When you’re in a mental hospital all you really know is someone decided you were crazy enough to be there.

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  3. There are plans to locate our new mental hospital forensic unit within the confines of a prison. Guess it will serve as a deterrent to the prisoners. “mess up and we will send you to the mental health unit”. Kind of says it all really when even prisoners don’t want to be put in the hospital environment.

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  4. Prisons are not allowed in theory to directly torture the inmates. Psych wards have a long proud tradition of violence, whether the brain injuries are produced mechanically (lobotomy), electrically (ECT) or chemically (neuroleptics).

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  5. If I had the choice of a year in jail or a year in the psych ward, I’d choose jail for sure. At least there is some kind of regulation as to what guards are and are not allowed to do. In the psych ward, you are truly at their mercy, and a lot of them don’t have much of that.

    —- Steve

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  6. I believe, according to my medical records, during the 2 1/2 weeks I was held against my will, the doctor talked to me 3 times, for maybe 5 minute max each time. There was no one-on-one therapy whatsoever. I was given some stupid personality test, then talked to another doctor for a bit, although reading his records is a joke, since everything he wrote is incorrect. I’m not quite certain why mental health professionals are dumb enough to believe that whacking a person out of their mind on willy nilly drug cocktails of nine or so mind altering drugs for ten days, and then trying to talk to the person, will provide them with accurate insight or information. Of course everything the guy wrote down was wrong.

    And when I did the follow up “group therapy,” we were told it was against the rules to discuss our actual concerns, the only thing we were allowed to discuss was our so-called “mental illnesses.” What good is “therapy” if it has nothing to do with the patients’ concerns?

    I’ve never in my life experienced anything close to the disgusting, ungodly disrespectful, and completely morally bankrupt chemical “torture” and physical abuse of a psychiatric hospitalization. I have no doubt prison would be more humane.

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