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Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill today called for Congressional hearings and executive action in response to the release of a special report by the U.S. Department of Justice that estimates that over a quarter of a million inmates in America's prisons and jails suffer from mental illness.
"The Justice Department report confirms what we have known for years," said NAMI's Executive Director, Laurie Flynn. "Prisons and jails have become the mental hospitals of the 1990's. What the report doesn't show are the root causes of the problem---the failure of America's mental health system to provide adequate treatment. The criminalization of persons with mental illnesses is the result of a broader system in crisis."
"The Justice Department study will be little more than a waste of the taxpayer's money unless it becomes a foundation for action" Flynn said. "NAMI calls on Attorney General Janet Reno and Congressional leaders to take the following immediate actions:
"Each reform reflects a reality that is within our grasp," Flynn said. "All we need is the will to act. Ultimately, Congress must help to provide the leadership necessary to meet the challenge."
In 1992, NAMI published its own study, Criminalizing the Seriously Mentally Ill: The Abuse of Jails as Mental Hospitals, which found:
"Nothing has gotten much better since then," Flynn observed. "America shouldn't have to wait another seven years for the Federal government to act."