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Election 2010: People with Mental Illness Don't Belong Behind Bars; Are Candidates Addressing the Facts?

October 19, 2010

Arlington, Va. -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) charged today that when states cut mental health services, costs often are shifted to law enforcement and corrections systems—with almost 25 percent of inmates in prisons and 20 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system living with serious mental illnesses.

See Belowfor State-by-State Data (Adults)

On average, state mental health care systems get only a D grade, in part because of a lack of adequate investment in community services.

Over the past 20 years, state spending on correctional systems has increased 350 percent from $10 billion to $45 billion. High spending on correctional costs are considered one cause of state budget crises.

As Election 2010 enters its final stretch, NAMI has been urging editors, reporters, bloggers and others in a series of special alerts to ask all candidates to address the nation's mental health crisis. (See previous alerts below.)

Here are the facts:

  • About two million people with serious mental illness are booked into local jails each year. About 30 percent of female and 15 percent of male inmates in local jails have serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The majority of arrests are for non-violent offenses such as disturbing public order or property offenses. Many have been homeless.
  • Seventy percent of youth in the juvenile justice system also experience mental health disorders, with 20 percent experiencing disorders so severe that their ability to function is significantly impaired.
  • In prisons, almost 25 percent of inmates live with serious mental illness, but their conditions are often under-treated—or not treated at all. Harsh conditions, including isolation and noise, can "push them over the edge" into acute psychosis. An estimated 70,000 prisoners suffer from psychosis on any given day.
  • Fifty percent of people with mental illness who have previously been in prison are rearrested and returned to prison not because they have committed new offenses, but because they are unable to comply with conditions of probation or parole—often because of mental illness.
  • In prison, people with mental illness often lose access to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits. Even when benefits can be restored upon release, reapplying for can be time-consuming and complex. Without case management and community assistance, individuals with mental illness are at risk of requiring costly emergency medical services or ending up back in prison.
  • Based on a comparison of two programs in Illinois and New York, between approximately $20,000 and $40,000 per persons can be saved by providing the mental health care than putting a person in jail.

Adults with Mental Illness in Prison by State; rounded to 100 (excludes local jails)

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama

7,100

 

Alaska

700

 

Arizona

8,900

 

Arkansas

3,500

 

California

41,400

 

Colorado

5,600

 

Connecticut

3,400

 

Delaware

1,000

 

DC   

NA

 

Florida

24,600

 

Georgia

12,600

 

Hawaii

1,000

 

Idaho

1,700

 

Illinois

10,900

 

Indiana

6,800

 

Iowa

2,100

 

Kansas

2,000

 

Kentucky

5,100

 

Louisiana

9,100

 

Maine

500

 

Maryland

5,500

 

Massachusetts

2,400

 

Michigan

11,700

 

Minnesota

2,300

 

sissippi

5,200

 

Missouri

7,200

 

Montana

900

 

Nebraska

1,100

 

Nevada

3,100

 

New Hampshire

700

 

New Jersey

6,200

 

New Mexico

1,500

 

New York

14,400

 

North Carolina

8,200

 

North Dakota

300

 

Ohio

12,400

 

Oklahoma

5,800

 

Oregon

3,400

 

Pennsylvania

11,800

 

Rhode Island

600

 

South Carolina

5,600

 

South Dakota

800

 

Tennessee

6,500

 

Texas

37,700

 

Utah

1,500

 

Vermont

400

 

Virginia

9,200

 

Washington

4,300

 

West Virginia

1,400

 

Wisconsin

5,100

 

Wyoming

500

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

Sabol, W. J., West, H. C. and Cooper, M., Prisoners in 2008, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, (2009), and

James, D. and Glaze, L., Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics,

(2006).

NAMI Election 2010 Series

Since Labor Day, NAMI has issued as series special alerts to editors, reporters, bloggers and others, encouraging them to ask candidates about the nation's mental health crisis. Are candidates addressing the facts? The series includes state by state data.

Other Resources

About NAMI

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1100 state and local affiliates that engage in research, education, support and advocacy. NAMI is a non-partisan, non-profit organization and does not endorse political candidates.

www.nami.org

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