Jails Holding More Mentally Ill

An interesting article recently published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) examines the plight of mentally ill inmates who are languishing in local jails. The paper reports that Georgia has more mentally people in jail than being treated in state psychiatric hospitals--a shocking statistic that highlights a far too common problem for people with severe mental illness.

"Jails have become the new asylums," declares the AJC, trapping some people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses in a continual cycle of arrest and release. Many have ended up behind bars for petty crimes. Some will wait in jail for years as it is determined whether they are competent to stand trial.

Incarceration keeps the mentally ill off the streets, but it also seems to fail in providing prisoners with the help they need to improve their lives. In a sense, it makes them both the alleged perpetrator of a crime and a victim of a flawed system that provides little psychiatric assistance to mentally ill inmates and costs taxpayers millions of dollars.

Numerous studies have found that most people with disorders like schizophrenia are not violent or a danger to others. Jail is likely not the appropriate place for many mentally ill people, and it is unfortunate to see a statistic like the one in Georgia, where the mentally ill are more likely to be jailed than treated by the state.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Visser)

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