Mental Illness a Frequent Cell Mate for Those Behind Bars

Former inmate describes efforts to stay emotionally healthy after his release

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In 2011, the Fortune Society, which already provided housing and other services for ex-offenders, opened its Better Living Center, which they said is the first agency in New York City to cater exclusively to individuals with a criminal history.

"Most of our people come to us after their release when we have a window of time," Page said. "There's a hopefulness that things could be different. It's a wonderful time to work with people if you give them a fighting chance."

It is through this Better Living Center that King got his chance. He now takes medication every day and sees a therapist weekly for bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

"I have access to excellent mental-health treatment now and I'm also mindful of the fact that there are [many] prison inmates who could benefit from the same level of care, or something close to it," King said. "Last week was my last day on parole. Over 25 years, I have been living on this cloud either in prison or on supervision. I am no longer. I am totally free."

More information

The U.S. Department of Justice has more on the mental-health problems of inmates.

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