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US jails hold 10 times more mentally ill people than state hospitals, report finds

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2705 (Published 10 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2705
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

State prisons and county jails in the United States hold 10 times more people with serious mental illness than state mental hospitals, says a report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness.1

Using data from earlier studies on the prevalence of mental illness among prisoners the report estimated that about 356 000 of the 2.1 million inmates held in US state prisons and county or city jails had serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or major depression with psychotic features. By contrast, it said that state mental hospitals currently held only about 35 000 such patients—a tenfold difference.

The …

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