Protect Abused Mentally Ill Prisoners


Target: United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Goal: Stop the physical abuse against mentally ill prisoners.

A recent Human Rights Watch investigation of U.S. state and local prisons reveals that prison workers have systematically used excessive and unwarranted force against mentally ill prisoners. The excessive force includes the use of stun guns, chemical sprays, and tying the prisoners to beds and chairs for hours.

The 127-page investigation includes a year of interviewing around 125 officials and mental health experts, as well as reviewing hundreds of cases around the country. The study reveals that prisoners who suffer from more serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, are more likely than other prisoners to be physically punished for more routine misbehavior such as using profanity.

The prisoners with mental illness are more likely to have maladaptation to being imprisoned, such as not being able to cope with stress, and may not be able to follow orders as promptly as other prisoners. Human Rights Watch points to the prisons for failing to handle the situation appropriately, and says that it is due to inadequate staff training.

The Justice Department estimates that 75 percent of women and 63 percent of men in local jails will suffer from a mental health problem that requires services. Yet, there is nothing being done about the physical abuse these inmates receive daily. Please sign this petition to address the physical abuse, and require that action is taken to stop it.


Dear Secretary of Health and Human Services,

A recent Human Rights Watch investigation reveals that excessive force is used against mentally ill prisoners. This force can include spraying chemicals, tying them to beds for an extended period of time, and the use of stun guns. The force is often used against the prisoners against routine disturbances that other prisoners would not be physically punished for.

Despite the fact that 75 percent of women and 63 percent of men in local jails will suffer from a mental health problem, there is no training for staff or strong leadership preventing the prison guards from using excessive force on mentally ill prisoners. I urge you to work to stop this physical abuse from continuing, and protect all mentally ill prisoners.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Charles O’Rear

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