A mentally ill inmate shakes the bars of his cell and yells at guards in Delta ward
of the Pinellas County Jail.
source of photo:
According to a new research paper which you can read by clicking on the following link:
(you first need a program on your computer which can open and read PDF files):
There are now more mentally ill persons living in jails in the United States than there are living
in Hospitals! In fact, if you read this document you willl find the following statement:
"There are now more than three times more seriously mentally ill persons in jails and
prisons than in hospitals."
Does anyone see something wrong with this situation? Apparently, health care administrators and
prison administrators in the USA see nothing wrong with it!
Further, the authors of this document go on to state the following incredible facts:
"Recent studies suggest that at least 16 percent of inmates in jails and prisons have a
serious mental illness. In 1983 a similar study reported that the percentage was
6.4 percent. Thus, in less than three decades, the percentage of seriously mentally ill
prisoners has almost tripled."
"These findings are consistent with studies reporting that 40 percent of individuals with
serious mental illnesses have been in jail or prison at some time in their lives."!!!
Why is this the case?
The authors of ths research paper suggest the following explanations:
1.It is now extremely difficult (in the USA) to find a bed for a seriously mentally ill person who needs
to be hospitalized.
2. States have actually closed state mental hospitals and this has meant that "mentally ill" people have
"been pushed into jails!!!
As a consequence of these changes in how people with mental illnesses are treated these experts state
"In summary, national surveys and individual state reports both suggest that at
least 15–20 percent of jail and prison inmates are seriously mentally ill. We have thus
effectively returned to conditions that last existed in the United States in the 1840s."
It is interesting that the Government of the United States can find billions of dollars to send troops and
their equipment to Iraq and Afganistan, however it cannot find the dollars to help people who have
severe mental illness issues in the country!
Two key conclusions of this study are:
(1)"In 2004 in the United States, there were 100,439 psychiatric beds available in
public and private psychiatric hospitals and in the psychiatric units of general hospitals.
Since the population of the country was just over 300 million, that means that there was
approximately one psychiatric bed available for every 3,000 people. This contrasts to the
situation in the United States in 1955, when there was one public psychiatric bed available
for every 300 people. Thus, even not including private psychiatric hospital beds or the beds
on psychiatric units of general hospitals in 1955, an individual with a serious mental illness
was 10 times more likely to find a psychiatric bed for treatment in 1955 than in 2004.
statistical test, there was a very strong correlation between those states that have more
mentally ill persons in jails and prisons and those states that are spending less money on
mental health services (Spearman’s rho = 0.4974; p < 0.001). Among the ten states most
likely to be using hospitals, six were also among the ten states spending the most money
per capita. Conversely, among the ten states mostly likely to have mentally ill individuals
in jails and prisons, five were also among the states spending the least money per capita."
Is it any wonder that the experts who put this paper together state the following?
"Jails and prisons are not created to be de facto mental hospitals. They are not
structurally appropriate for patients, and the staffs are not recruited as psychiatric
Even more troubling is the following statement:
"Multiple studies have shown
"The present mental health system appears to be bankrupt of ideas for fixing this disaster."
Let us hope that Government administrators read this document and start to implement some
of its recommendations (which you can read about in the document itself):
1.Use assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), 2.Use mental health courts,
3. Conduct unannounced surveys, 4.Shift the funds, 5.Fix the federal funding system,
6.Reform the treatment laws
Mentally ill patients have enough problems dealing with their illness,and deserve to be
treated with dignity and respect,!