Posts tagged with: Mental health

jailIt is estimated that, at any time in the U.S., there are 1.2 million people with mental illness who are being held either in jail or prison. Some of them, without a doubt, truly belong there. For most, though, jail and prison has become a quasi-triage center/hospital/safety net. And it takes a huge toll.

Take Cook County, Ill. for example. Sheriff Tom Dart keeps track of the mentally ill that come under his jurisdiction.

On average, at least 30% of the 12,000 inmates suffer from a “serious” mental illness, though the sheriff said the estimate is “a horrifically conservative number.” One of those inmates, Dart said, was a “chronic self-mutilator” who has been arrested more than 100 times, ringing up more than $1 million in repeated arrest- and detention-related costs.

Another inmate, the sheriff said, recently had to be fitted with a hockey mask and thick gloves resembling oven mitts to keep him from gouging out his remaining eye. The 43-year-old man, suffering bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, had ripped one eye from the socket before his arrival at the jail, complaining that he “didn’t want to see evil anymore.”

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President Barack Obama has put gun control high on his second-term agenda, pushing also for more police forces and mental health services in schools. “The American mental health system is broken, but this back-door approach under the guise of preventing crime is not the way to fix it,” writes Acton’s Elise Hilton. “It will only further stigmatize the mentally ill, and prevent many from getting help.” The full text of her essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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