The United States has an illness. Our prisons and jails are filled with the mentally ill. Every month, there is another investigation revealing that a substantial number of inmates incarcerated for minor crimes are suffering from mental illnesses. Channel 9’s report about Orange County Jail disclosed that one-third of the 3,000 inmates presently imprisoned have serious mental illnesses. The same individuals,having mental issues, are arrested numerous times for misdemeanors such as trespassing and disorderly conduct.
In 2013, 46,000 individuals were locked up in the Orange County jail and 8,000 were diagnosed with mental illnesses. The average time for a mentally ill inmate at the jail is 60 days with a cost of 8.9 million. The 60 day incarceration rate is twice the stay of other inmates.
State hospitals for the mentally ill started closing throughout the country in the 1960’s for a number of reasons. It was thought that local communities would be best to handle their residents with mental problems. Today, Orange County, only has 190 beds for long term care and minimal options for short term care. In the end, the mentally ill are left to the streets and eventual lock up in the local jail.
Jails and prisons have replaced the state hospitals. Correctional officers do not have the training to cope with inmates that have mental illnesses.
There are other options to resolve this national crisis. Recently in Los Angeles County, the local government approved 41 million dollars for programs to keep the mentally ill out of jail. More money will be allocated to expanding mobile support teams that help officers with individuals having mental issues. The county will open three new 24 hour urgent care centers and add 560 more beds for residential treatment.
The United states has five percent of the world’s population and twenty-five percent of the world’s inmates. This shameful statistic would change substantially if the mentally ill received appropriate health care and were not locked up for petty crimes.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com