This past Thursday I had the amazing and unique opportunity to spend a day in jail (technically prison I think?). As part of my third year medical school psychiatry rotation we got to have a first hand look at “forensic” psychiatry — which is, basically, the treatment of prisoners. Going in to this I really had no idea what to expect.. basically just what I had learned from watching Orange is the New Black. Similarly to the show, the mental health unit was a place you were sent off to for quite some time with no contact with the rest of the population.. Our patients spent 23 hours a day in a jail cell, and during their hour only interacted with other prisoners in the mental illness block. My heart broke for these patients, their poor quality of life, and their poor quality of mental health care. Patients are seen once every three or four weeks for about 5 minutes at a time.
I’m really hoping a lot more went on behind the scenes when I wasn’t there in order to help people return to their baseline, in order to eventually take care of themselves on release from prison.
It also highlighted the importance of finding a career you love. Never do I want to be like the doctor I watched, who treated patients like a number in a line, and didn’t even bother looking them in the eyes. I could imagine working in a prison could lead to a lot of burn out, but… To me, they still have basic rights. Especially those in for things like being drunk in public or leaving threatening messages on government voicemails. Very very interesting experience indeed!