Let’s be clear. Not everyone with a mental disorder commits a crime. But since America’s jails and prisons are filled with mentally ill inmates there is evidence that the mentally ill are being held as criminals. The Huffington Post reports that a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study in 2006 discovered that over half of prison and jail inmates were classified as having a mental disorder. Most of the mentally ill prisoners committed low-level crimes, which ordinarily would not land a person behind bars. To make matters worse, according to the BJS, prisoners receive little or no mental health treatment in prison, but are often held in solitary confinement. Read the Huffington Post article here.
They might not fare any better when they are released.Stateline, the Pew Charitable Trusts news service claims 4 million Americans with serious mental health issues are without medical insurance because 24 states refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is unclear how many of the 750,000 inmates released each year are included in this staggering number. Nor is there any available statistics at this time on how many of the 4 million untreated mentally ill were charged with a crime and landed back in jail, or were incarcerated for the first time. What is clear is that until the mentally ill can receive the health coverage they need and deserve to access treatment, states will be footing the bill for undeservedly incarcerating those with mental health issues, which may be the biggest crime.