Since 2010, the Los Angeles jail’s population has increased almost 50 percent. Almost every inmate, in this latest increase of inmates, has addiction and mental health issues. Approximately one third of the jail population, 4,000 inmates have mental health issues.
The jail’s officials have attributed the increase in mentally ill inmates on methamphetamine use (known as Meth). Meth addiction can cause paranoia, hallucinations and delusions. Physicians are less sure, since it is hard to know which came first–the addiction or the mental illness.
The Jails Project Director, Esther Lim, at the Southern California ACLU stated,”The American Civil Liberties Union routinely receives complaints from Twin Towers inmates who say they haven’t been able to see doctors or psychiatrists, haven’t received their medication and that their medical needs are being ignored.”
In 2016, the LA sheriff’s department started training programs that prepare deputies to handle mentally ill inmates and how to defuse violent situations.They have started new therapy programs. The emphasis is now on treatment, instead of punishment
Additionally, they launched a transition program for mentally ill inmates with addictions to continue their treatment in community programs. With effective community programs, we can stop the endless cycle of the same inmates committing crimes to obtain cash for drugs.
This tragedy is not only LA jail’s problem, but it affects jails throughout the country. Richard Cho, Council of State Government Justice Center Director of Behavioral Health stated, “Our estimates are that approximately 2 million people each year are booked into jails who have a serious mental illness.”
A 2014 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association revealed that the United States has ten times more mentally ill inmates in its jails and prisons than in its state hospitals. The report also confirmed that we have each year more mentally ill inmates with worse mental health issues.
It is time to stop this endless cycle of misery. For those who are not sympathetic, keep in mind that many inmates in jail are still innocent, and are waiting for their trial or they are serving short sentences. They will re-enter their communities. By providing effective care and programs, all of society shall benefit.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com