Half of the inmates shouldn’t be here

‘In many ways society has turned jails and prisons into mental health clinics’

From a CBSNews article:

Elli Montgomery: And do you know what your charge is today?
Inmate: Retail theft.
Elli Montgomery: Retail theft?
Inmate: $70 worth of ground beef.
Elli Montgomery: $70 worth of ground beef?

Every inmate is screened for mental illness when they first arrive.

Inmate: I was diagnosed as schizophrenic when I was in group home.
Elli Montgomery: In a group home? OK. We’re gonna make sure that you get help today.
Inmate: If I don’t get the medication that I need, I know it’s gonna go wrong.

This man — who also has a history of mental illness — has been in and out of the jail 37 times.

Elli Montgomery: I understand.

Lesley Stahl: How does that happen? How does someone come back to a jail 37 times?
Tom Dart: What in God’s name do you expect to happen with that person? OK so this person has a serious mental illness, he’s not being treated, his family and him have been disconnected for years, he obviously doesn’t have a job. He has nowhere to live. What do you think is going to happen? I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. He will come in contact with law enforcement, either because he’s trying to find a place to sleep or he’s trying to find something to eat and he’ll be back in here. It’s not because he walked out of here saying, “Listen, I want to go and commit horrific crimes.” It’s like he’s trying to survive.
Lesley Stahl: In many ways society has turned jails and prisons into mental health clinics and you’re actually running one here.


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