May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In recognition, we will be publishing a series of articles about the status of mental health in the United States. Mental health is an issue that can be forgotten when discussing our incarcerated population.
1.2 million individuals in prisons have mental illnesses. The nation’s jails and prisons have replaced hospitals as the main option for individuals with mental illness. But these inmates bring additional issues that prisons and jails may not be equipped to handle. Inmates suffering from mental illness are more likely to commit suicide; more likely to create dangerous situations for themselves and others; cost the facility more money; and stay longer.
With the influx of inmates with mental health issues, a mental health approach to running a jail or prison becomes vital. As Sheriff Dart said when addressing attendees of the 55th Anniversary Celebration and Dinner for Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), “we treat human beings like they’re human beings”
Take a look at the statistics below to further understand the magnitude of inmates with mental illnesses: