America’s New Asylums – Power in Words

Below is an excerpt from The Treatment Advocacy Center – Emptying the New Asylums. https://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/storage/documents/emptying-new-asylums-exec-summary.pdf

In 2016, nearly 400,000 inmates in US jails and prisons were estimated to have a mental health condition. Of those inmates, an estimated 90,000 were defendants who had been arrested and jailed but had not come to trial because they were too disordered to understand the charges on which they were detained. All but three states authorize evaluating the mental competency of such offenders within the jails or in the community, and some states authorize treatment to restore competency outside a hospital.

Yet, America’s state hospitals remain the default option for providing pretrial mental health services to criminal defendants.

There is no fast or easy fix for the mental health system failures that have taken half a century to develop. In an ideal world, individuals with acute or chronic psychiatric distress should not have to worry about wait times in jail for mental health beds because they would receive timely and effective treatment when they needed it and jail diversion when their symptoms led to criminal justice involvement. Under current less-than-ideal circumstances, reducing
inmate bed waits and ED boarding will require implementing a combination of strategies that reduce forensic bed demand, increase bed supplies or both.
Computer modeling offers policymakers and mental health officials a mathematical tool for developing evidence-based policy and practice to break the logjam of inmates with mental illness who are unable to come to trial because they are too sick. Although it would not address the hospitalization needs of the other populations, this step alone could moderate the nation’s bed shortage, reduce mass incarceration of people with mental illness and make existing beds available to more patients.

That would be a start.

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