It can be tough for ex-inmates to stay out of trouble when they get out prison, but for those with drug problems or battling mental illness in Massachusetts, the transition is even more of a struggle, per a piece by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team. A Department of Correction study of prisoners released from state prisons in 2012 shows within three years of release, 37% of those with mental illnesses get sent back, as do more than half of those with addictions—and if they have both issues, that number climbs. The problem starts in the state prisons themselves, which have suffered from decreased funding for mental health care in recent years (especially since a for-profit company took over health care services in 2013), and it continues into the real world, where prisoners are sent with few skills or resources, leaving them hard-pressed to find decent housing and work and at risk for recidivism.
One case study in the piece: that of Nick Lynch, diagnosed with ADD and bipolar disorder and first incarcerated at the age of 18. While imprisoned, Lynch's illness worsened, exacerbated by long stints spent in solitude, a drug problem that wasn't treated, and little access to meds. Help came only when Lynch tried to kill himself near the end of his sentence. Once released at age 26, trying to navigate his mental illness and addiction problems on his own, with his dad desperately trying to help, Lynch spiraled out of control again, enjoying just 103 days of freedom before he was charged with attempted murder and started the incarceration cycle all over. "My brain and will used to be strong, Dad," he wrote to his father in 2014. "But instead of growing stronger through my prison experience, I grow weaker." Now 30, he's due out of prison sometime next year. The entire Spotlight story, including Lynch's story and how Massachusetts prisons have become makeshift asylums, is here. (Read more Longform stories.)