Trend persists of prisons as mental health housing

Posted on April 17, 2014

A federal judge's objection to what he called the horrific treatment of some mentally ill inmates in California prisons highlights a trend that has been building for decades in the state and across the country: As mental hospitals closed or were scaled back, prisons and county jails have become the de facto housing for many who are mentally ill.

"Prison and jail officials are being asked to assume responsibility for the nation's most seriously mentally ill individuals, despite the fact that the officials did not sign up to do this job; are not trained to do it; face severe legal restrictions in their ability to provide treatment for such individuals; and yet are held responsible when things go wrong, as they inevitably do under such circumstances," the study said.

Housing and treating the growing number of mentally ill inmates has been difficult and expensive for California's prison system, which has spent more than $2 billion on new mental health facilities while sharply increasing salaries for mental health professionals in the last decade. The state expects to spend $400 million on prison mental health services in the next fiscal year alone.

"We as a society have failed to set up appropriate outpatient mental health services so people who maybe could function in the community have not been able to," said Michael Bien, one of the attorneys suing the state on behalf of mentally ill inmates.

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Source material from Yahoo News