Two of the nation’s largest jails — Rikers Island in New York and the county jail in Los Angeles — have agreed to operate under federal oversight, in part because of mistreatment of the mentally ill. Cook County Jail here in Chicago is already under such oversight and has become a model of sorts for other troubled institutions in how to deal with the mentally ill. It recently hosted delegations from Rikers Island and Los Angeles County.
Mental Health Media Clips
Appearing in this episode of Smart Talk are Patriot-News/PennLive reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, and Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel.
Three state agencies in Ohio are aggressively pushing to get the majority of the roughly 21,000 people who are released from prison every year enrolled in Medicaid up to 90 days before they walk out the door. Services don’t begin until they are released, unless they are hospitalized.
The grim reality is that jails have high suicide rates — higher than prisons. Part of the reason, says corrections expert and consultant Steve J. Martin, is what he calls the “shock of confinement.” Jails often house people who’ve never been in serious legal trouble before, and it can have a traumatic effect on them.
Based on an analysis of data from county and state prisons, PennLive estimates that nearly a third of Pennsylvania’s 87,756 inmates had a mental illness on an average day last year.It begs the question: Why are so many of the state’s mentally ill being locked up?
Cutting the number of mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles County’s jail system would require spending tens of millions of dollars on new treatment facilities and housing for offenders who would otherwise be released into homelessness, a long-awaited report concludes.
A task force of public officials and mental health advocates convened by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey issued the report after spending more than a year studying how to divert mentally ill people from the criminal justice system.
Joining a growing effort to tackle what one official calls “a national crisis,” the Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution on July 20 to reduce the number of inmates with mental illness in the county jail. The board’s action came only days after North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s July 14 announcement that he was creating the North Carolina Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force in support of the national “Stepping Up” initiative on mental illness and incarceration.
A Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant will fund a new program in Allegheny County aimed at providing affordable housing, employment services and other support for a group of men and women most at risk of returning to jail. The Allegheny County Mental Health and Justice Housing program, an effort of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative, will focus on 20 people with serious mental illness — or a mental disorder paired with one relating to drug and alcohol use — who have cycled in and out of the criminal justice, behavioral health and homeless services systems.
A transition program at Cook County Jail offers mental health counseling and education to inmate with mental illness, while connecting them to possible job sources in the community and the services they would need on the outside to keep them up on their medications.
A new analysis of the discipline data shows that schools with more black students are also less likely to steer students to mental health services. By contrast, more heavily white schools were more likely to respond to infractions with counseling and to devise behavior plans to help a student deal with anger or hyperactivity, for example.