Howard Hass

2:30–3:30 pm, The Arizona Senior Academy Building
Dr. Howard Haas

Based on his experience as a psychiatrist working in a federal prison environment, Dr. Haas is speaking to several issues arising from the closing of public mental hospitals in the U.S. in the 1970’s, ostensibly to stop the involuntary “warehousing” of the mentally ill. Ironically, the closing of other hospitals resulted in a shift in facilities leaving only four hospitals open to treat severe mental illness patients: all in federal prisons. This lack of mental health services has in itself led to an increase in prison incarceration rates, in which the mentally ill are incarcerated whether criminals or not. 

In his lecture, Dr. Haas will explain how health care professionals work in groups to evaluate people with mental illness annually, including those who are serving  sentences. He will describe individual cases demonstrating the assessment process and the changing needs, treatment, and possible placement of individuals into more appropriate environments, potentially releasing some from prison if they are not serving a sentence.

Dr. Haas graduated from the State University of New York Medical Center. He practiced ophthalmology for twenty years and then shifted to psychiatry, working the last fifteen years at the Federal Medical Center prison at Devens, Massachusetts. The mental unit of 160 patients had a staff of 4 psychiatrists, one psychiatric nurse, plus psychologists and social workers. This prison was formerly an army base and had been the site of secret government testing of hallucinogenic drugs that came to light when one inmate committed suicide. Events here are analogous to the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, in which unwitting patients were subjected to unauthorized research. Howard Haas recently moved into Academy Village.

Written by Maria Dobozy, Academy Village Volunteer 

April 3: “Mental Health in Federal Prisons”