Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
The lack of adequate services is pushing more mentally ill individuals into jails.
Friday, September 27, 2013
The Wall Street Journal this week declared jails “the new asylums” for mentally ill Americans.
The newspaper survey of states found that the proportion of jail and prison inmates with a mental illness ranges from 10 percent to half. In Virginia, 24 percent of jail inmates in 2012 had a known or suspected mental illness, up from 18 percent in 2007, according to the State Compensation Board. That’s 6,300 men and women, or slightly more than the number admitted to a state mental health institution in the same year. At the Western Virginia Regional Jail, an average 221 out of 707 total inmates in 2012 had a mental illness.
Inmates with a mental illness are commonly charged with nonviolent crimes. They are incarcerated not because they are dangerous but because there are too few alternatives available.
This human rights crisis is also a crisis for law enforcement officials and their communities.
Twenty jails reported to the state that they maintain separate units for inmates with a mental illness. Forty-five jails provide staff mental health training. All total, jails in Virginia reported spending $13.3 million on treatment, including $254,200 at the regional jail in Salem. More than 60 percent of the statewide cost was shouldered by cities and counties, with the state picking up just 10 percent and the remainder covered by a variety of other sources.
Large numbers of incarcerated people with mental illnesses led states to construct institutions. Over time, those hospitals became warehouses for individuals capable of greater independence thanks to new medications.
The push to increase community-based services has too often, in Virginia and other states, been touted as a cost-saving measure rather than a means to provide more humane and effective care. As a result, institutional beds have declined more quickly than community services can respond to the needs. Gov. Bob McDonnell and state lawmakers budgeted $7 million this year for much-needed crisis care and targeted programs, but deep cuts to basic services during the recession have never been erased.
Deputized as mental health providers, many jail administrators have tried their best to perform those duties with compassion. But the reality is that’s not their job, and it should not be.
“Society was horrified to warehouse people in state hospitals, but we have no problem with warehousing them in jails and prisons,” Thomas Dart, sheriff of Cook County in Illinois, told the Journal.
Dismay alone will not alleviate the harsh reality in today’s jails. It will take loud and repeated demands from those willing to speak up for the vulnerable and voiceless men and women behind bars.
Weather Journal7 wintry scenarios for Sunday