Cost of Warehousing the Mentally Ill in Jails
By: Jack Urquhart
Humane concern for the mentally ill should be sufficient reason to address a major public healthcare crisis–inadequate funding for mental health care. Obviously, it isn’t. Maybe the cost of ignoring the care of the mentally ill will get more attention.
People who unquestionably suffer severe mental illness are jailed in ever-increasing numbers. Jails and prisons were never meant to warehouse the mentally ill. The taxpayer cost for this warehousing is phenomenal and increases daily.
Many jailed mentally ill were sent there by judges as a short term holding place for necessary psych evaluations. Without such evaluations, many alleged criminals can not be tried, and, if tried, are better able to assert an insanity defense. But the needed psych evaluations can not be done in jails. They must be done in hospitals or clinics with proper psychiatric staffing or at least by a qualified psychiatrist.
However, the money for psychiatric hospitals and professionals to evaluate and, if necessary, treat the jailed mentally ill does not exist. So, the jailed mentally ill remain jailed–at great taxpayer cost.
Taxpayers are bearing a large and an inexcusable burden for their elected officials ignoring mental health care.
The cost of jailing the mentally ill hits taxpayers hard.
And for you “tough on crime” public officials who routinely deny funding for mental health care, get real!
Accused criminals warehoused in jails, because the money for psych evaluations is not available, is real, absurdly costly and flat wrong.
For what it is worth, the greater taxpayer costs resulting from ignoring mental health care run much deeper. But let any public official dare deny the fruitless cost of using jails and prisons to warehouse the mentally ill.