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May 3, 2006

The realities of mentally ill prisoners

In this morning's Wall Street Journal, Gary Fields has this terrific (and long) article about mentally ill prisoners entitled "Trapped by Rules, The Mentally Ill Languish in Prison; For Such Felons, Parole Is Rare, Recidivism Is Probable; Lack of State Hospitals."  Here are some highlights:

For years American prisons have been grappling with a surge in the ranks of mentally ill prisoners, caused in part by the shuttering of state-run mental-health facilities a generation ago.... Once imprisoned, mentally ill inmates are rarely paroled.  Some "max out" their sentence, serving at least 85% of their term, and are released.  With nowhere to go, and with a recidivism rate higher than that of the general prison population, they often end up back where they started....

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates there are 300,000 people suffering from mental illness in state and federal prisons, compared with 70,000 in state psychiatric facilities. "Our jails and prisons are our largest mental-health facilities now," says U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican from Ohio who has co-authored bills to create federal programs to improve services for mentally ill inmates.

May 3, 2006 at 08:59 AM | Permalink

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