In 2014, we reported that our jails were filled with the mentally ill. In 2014, California Channel 9 reported that one-third of the 3,000 inmates, in Orange County jail, had serious mental illnesses. The investigation revealed the same individuals,having mental health issues, were arrested numerous times for misdemeanors, such as trespassing and disorderly conduct.
The Treatment Advocacy Center issued a study in 2014, reporting there were 10 times more mentally ill people in jail, than in state psychiatric hospitals. From the 1960’s through the 1980’s, many states closed numerous psychiatric hospitals in order to save money. The states wrongfully concluded that the mentally ill would be cared for by their local communities.
The Center’s report emphasized, that the number of inmates with severe mental illnesses in American jails and prisons were increasing every year. In 2012, it was estimated that almost 360,000 inmates of the approximate 2.3 million incarcerated ( in federal, state, & local, jails-prisons) were suffering from serious mental illnesses.
In 2018, we are still confronted with the same problem—we are incarcerating the mentally ill for minor offenses.
In New York, if a defendant charged with a minor offense is found not guilty, because he or she is mentally incapacitated, the offender is sent to a local jail. At the local jail, they wait for placement in a state facility.The state facility determines any risk of danger to themselves or others. However, the wait for placement for a state facility is lengthy, since there are few state hospitals, and the few state hospitals are crowded.
Most jails are not equipped to treat inmates with mental illnesses. Worse, mentally ill inmates are easy targets for physical abuse and rape. In jail, without proper care, mentally ill inmates are at risk for suicide.
The United States has five percent of the world’s population and twenty-five percent of the world’s inmates. We can substantially reduce this shameful statistic, if the mentally ill, were not locked up for petty crimes, but were receiving care in an appropriate facility.