Monday, September 5, 2011

Prisons Replace Psychiatric Hospitals: Costs Soar

The three largest inpatient psychiatric facilities in the country are the Los Angeles County Jail, Rikers Island Jail in New York City and Cook County Jail in Illinois.  You read that correctly-jails and prison are America's defacto psychiatric hospitals.

There are an estimated 350,000 people with mental illness confined in the nation's prisons and jails according to National Public Radio (NPR). More Americans receive mental health treatment in prisons and jails than in hospitals or treatment centers.

The University of South Florida found that the highest users of criminal justice and mental health services in Miami-Dade County were 97 people, individuals diagnosed primarily with schizophrenia. Over a five-year period, these 97 individuals were arrested almost 2,200 times and spent 27,000 days in the Miami-Dade Jail.  Those 97 inmates cost taxpayers an astounding $13 million, reported NPR.

If Miami-Dade would have taken those 97 inmates and managed them in the community, even at the risk of spending "lavishly" on those 97 inmates, they could have saved at least $2 million.  Put them in there own apartment, give them food and medication provide public transportation and have some allowance  for arrest even occasional incarceration and Miamicould save over $300 a month on each inmate or about $1.94 million over five years.

Most taxpayers would object to paying a $22,000 annual "entitlement" to someone with mental illness. However, as long as they don't know they'll gladly pay the actual cost of $26,804 that is neatly hidden in incremental payments to the police, courts, the prisons, the victims, the doctor, the pharmacy and on and on.

Sheriff Greg Hamilton of Travis County in Austin, Texas, also sees the flaws in the system.  He told NPR, "It seems to me that we have criminalized being mentally ill."

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1 comment:

Ajlounyinjurylaw said...

Different perspective on taxpayers cost when put into words such as yours. I can see the what your saying.

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