Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mentally Ill in Jails

New Study Documents High Prevalence of Serious Mental Illnesses Among
Nation's Jail Populations

Council of State Governments Justice Center June 1st 2009

WASHINGTON--A new study released today of more than 20,000 men and women
entering jail offers the most accurate accounting in more than two
of the number of adults with serious mental illnesses in these

Using screening instruments to identify individuals entering jails with
most serious mental illnesses and the greatest need for comprehensive
continuous treatment, a team of researchers from the nonpartisan Council
State Governments Justice Center and Policy Research Associates found
14.5 percent of males and 31 percent of females -- or
16.9 percent overall -- met that criteria.

These estimates are three to six times higher than the general
and indicate that as many as 2 million bookings of people with serious
mental illnesses may occur each year. The findings, published today in
journal Psychiatric Services, underscore the challenges faced by jail
administrators to address the needs of individuals with mental illnesses
the face of budget cuts and extremely limited resources.

At a Capitol Hill briefing today, Art Wallenstein, Director of the
Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, said,
at the county and municipal level were never intended to replace the
for a strong community-based mental health system.
Better alternatives exist and they must be encouraged and supported.
Jail is
not the answer for addressing mental illness in this country."

Judge Steven Leifman, Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental
for the Supreme Court of Florida, said, "Only through systemwide
collaboration and partnerships can we begin to close the revolving door
the criminal justice system which, today, results in increased
devastation to our families and communities, wasteful government
and the shameful warehousing in jails and prisons of some of the most
vulnerable and neglected members of our communities."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is leading a
bipartisan coalition of senators in pressing for full funding of the
Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA). The
authorizes federal grants to help state and local governments create or
expand mental health courts; offer treatment and training programs; and
teach law enforcement officers and agents to recognize and react to
situations involving individuals with mental illnesses.

For more information on the study, its authors and its implications,

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