Friday, March 28, 2008

“Treating The Mentally Ill Makes Financial Sense”

The nation’s jails and prisons hold hundreds of thousands of people with severe mental illness who receive inadequate treatment and many times do not belong incarcerated. As a reporter for the Detroit Free Press points out:

“Locking up people who commit minor crimes because they need mental health treatment is ineffective, expensive and wrong. Mental health courts, along with more community treatment options, would ease the problem; the House must show more foresight than the Senate by funding them.”

As reader in Tennessee states in response to an article written about the inhumane treatment of an inmate with a mental illness, “[t]reating the mentally ill makes financial sense.” In the article the Davidson County Sheriff, Daron Hall, reports that people with mental illness make up 20 and 25 percent of every prison and jail population in Tennessee. According to a study conducted by U.S. Department of Justice, the average annual operating cost per State inmate in 2001 was nearly $23,000, and the cost for prisoners with severe psychiatric disorders far exceeds that average. In Michigan, mentally ill prisoners can cost the taxpayers $50,000 a year per inmate, and in some cases even more. Considering that many of those inmates ended up incarcerated only as a result of their mental illnesses, wouldn’t it make sense to insist on treatment for those most at risk in order to prevent their incarceration?