I have previously written about the criminality of warehousing the mentally ill in jails and prisons.
Well yesterday the National Alliance on Mental Illness forcefully made the case that people with mental illness do not belong in jails and prisons.
Here are some facts that the Alliance relays:
* About two million people with serious mental illness are booked into local jails each year. About 30 percent of female and 15 percent of male inmates in local jails have serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The majority of arrests are for non-violent offenses such as disturbing public order or property offenses. Many have been homeless.
* Seventy percent of youth in the juvenile justice system also experience mental health disorders, with 20 percent experiencing disorders so severe that their ability to function is significantly impaired.
* In prisons, almost 25 percent of inmates live with serious mental illness, but their conditions are often under-treated—or not treated at all. Harsh conditions, including isolation and noise, can “push them over the edge” into acute psychosis. An estimated 70,000 prisoners suffer from psychosis on any given day.
* Fifty percent of people with mental illness who have previously been in prison are rearrested and returned to prison not because they have committed new offenses, but because they have been able to comply with conditions of probation or parole—often because of mental illness.
* In prison, people with mental illness often lose access to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits. Even when benefits can be restored upon release, reapplying for can be time-consuming and complex. Without case management and community assistance, individuals with mental illness are at risk of requiring costly emergency medical services or ending up back in prison.
* Based on a comparison of two programs in Illinois and New York, between approximately $20,000 and $40,000 per persons can be saved by providing the mental health care than putting a person in jail.
These are staggering facts that underscore the inhumanity of the prison industrial complex. The Alliance also offers state by state numbers of mentally ill people in prisons (remember that this EXCLUDES jails which as we know have become are biggest mental health institutions).
Adults with Mental Illness in Prison by State; rounded to 100 (excludes local jails)
District of Columbia N/A
New Hampshire 700
New Jersey 6,200
New Mexico 1,500
New York 14,400
North Carolina 8,200
North Dakota 300
Rhode Island 600
South Carolina 5,600
South Dakota 800
West Virginia 1,400