U.S. Jails Hold More Mentally Ill Persons Than Hospitals Do

Ian C. Langtree Content Writer/Editor for Disabled World
Published: 2010/08/21 - Updated: 2024/05/09
Publication Type: Informative
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: U.S. states such as Texas, Nevada and Arizona have far greater numbers of mentally ill persons housed in state prisons than in hospitals. The study used data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Justice Statistics to compare the number of inmates with mental health issues in state jails and prisons with those in hospitals. Other issues the study cites include the fact that mentally ill inmates commit suicide at a greater rate than the general prison population.

Introduction

According to a new study, states such as Texas, Nevada and Arizona have far greater numbers of mentally ill persons housed in state prisons than in hospitals. The study, "More Mentally Ill Persons are in Jails and Prisons Than Hospitals: A Survey of the States," was released in May by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs' Association.

Main Digest

The study used data from 2004 and 2005 gleaned from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Justice Statistics to compare the number of inmates with mental health issues in state jails and prisons with those in hospitals.

The study used a baseline assumption that 16 percent of inmates in each state's penal system had a mental illness. The 16 percent figure is an increase of nearly 300 percent since 1983, when studies estimated the prison population contained only 6.4 percent mentally ill inmates.

The study then compared this number with the total number of patients in each state's mental institutions.

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Image of a persons hands and forearms wearing handcuffs.
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What the numbers showed was that in nearly every case (North Dakota being the sole exception), each state had more mentally ill inmates in jails and prisons than mentally ill patients in hospitals. In fact, the national average was slightly more than 3-to-1 mentally ill inmates in jails in prisons to mentally ill patients in hospitals.

In Texas, the number ballooned to nearly eight times as many mentally ill inmates in jails and prisons to mentally ill patients in hospitals. Only Nevada and Arizona, with close to a 10-to-1 ratio, had worse ratios.

Issues of Housing Mentally Ill Inmates in Jails

Authors of the study outline several problems associated with housing mentally ill persons in jails and prisons rather than hospitals:

Other issues the study cites include the fact that mentally ill inmates commit suicide at a greater rate than the general prison population, and mentally ill inmates are easier targets for abuse by other prisoners and prison staff.

The study's authors offer solutions, such as assisted outpatient treatment, mental health courts (which offer offenders the choice of treatment or prison), federal money tied to fewer mentally ill prisoners, and reformed federal funding and treatment laws.

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Cite This Page (APA): Langtree, I. C. (2010, August 21 - Last revised: 2024, May 9). U.S. Jails Hold More Mentally Ill Persons Than Hospitals Do. Disabled World. Retrieved June 17, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/legal/mentally-ill-jail.php

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