Jailing of mentally ill is a growing problem in California

By Tommy Bryant             

Locking up the mentally ill in jails and prisons is a growing problem in California, a Los Angeles Times story reports.

About 37 percent of the state’s inmates are mentally ill, said a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The spokesman noted that most of the patients have lower-level conditions that do not require inpatient or enhanced outpatient treatment.

The article stated 32,525 state prisoners were classified as mentally ill in April 2013. The overall inmate population fell by 5,230 by February, but the mentally ill population grew by 4,275.

“The use of the jail as a mental health ward is inefficient, ineffective and in many cases it is inhumane,” Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey told county supervisors in July 2014.

The newspaper reported the number of acute psychiatric beds available in hospitals statewide decreased by 2,700 – or nearly 30 percent—from 1995 to 2013, according to the California Hospital Association.

The LA Times illustrated the problem with the case of Reginald Murray, who spent time in prison before finally gaining admission to a mental hospital.

“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” said Murray’s attorney, Mieke ter Poorten.

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