Thursday, September 19, 2013

Consequences of Deinstitutionalization -- The Incarcerated Mentally Ill

The largest mental health facility in the United States is part of the L.A. County jail.
If you routinely hear voices, hallucinate, sink into suicidal depression or suffer inescapable torment, Los Angeles has a place for you.
The county jail.
On Monday, the jail held 3,200 inmates diagnosed with a mental illness and accused of a crime. Most have not been to trial, many have waited months for their day in court, and the majority have cycled through at least once before. There's no longer enough room to house them all in segregated areas, so 1,000 mentally ill men and 300 women are housed with the general population.
Sheriff Lee Baca has said for decades that he runs the nation's largest mental hospital, but we've heard it so often that the shock has worn off.

National Review Online

In California, the mentally ill are almost four times as likely to be incarcerated as hospitalized. In Texas, it is eight times. The courts have found California’s system to be cruel and unusual punishment, noting that the lack of treatment has caused people with mental illness to be held in telephone-booth-sized cages while wallowing in their feces. Mentally ill defendants in Texas line death row for horrific acts that most likely would never have been committed had they been provided the right care.
Law-enforcement officials, who bear the brunt of the failure to provide sufficient hospital beds, have become the major proponents of preserving them. The sheriff in Ventura County, Calif., is trying to raise funds to build his own psychiatric hospital. Michael Biasotti, immediate past president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, has written movingly about the issue
Police and sheriffs are being overwhelmed dealing with the unintended consequences of a policy change that in effect removed the daily care of our nation’s severely mentally ill population from the medical community and placed it with the criminal justice system. This policy change has caused a spike in the frequency of arrests of severely mentally ill persons, prison and jail population and the homeless population. . . . The deinstitutionalization of the severely mentally ill population has become a major consumer of law enforcement resources nationwide.
There are three times as many Americans incarcerated for mental illness as hospitalized. And it’s expensive. Every jail admission requires a crime, a cop, a district attorney, a defense attorney, a cell, a guard, and a probation or parole officer. Of course, some, like Aaron Alexis, only get a bullet.


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