The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: (202) 588-1000

First Comprehensive National Survey of Jail Staff in More Than 20 Years Shows County Jails Unequipped for and Overrun With Inmates Who Suffer From Mental Illnesses

 Incarceration Has Replaced Psychiatric Hospitalization for Thousands of Inmates With Serious Mental Illness


WHAT: Telephone press conference to release a comprehensive national survey of county jail and detention facilities that examines their capability to care for people who suffer from serious mental illnesses while incarcerated. The survey was conducted by Public Citizen and the Treatment Advocacy Center.

State prisons and county jails in the U.S. hold as many as 10 times more of these inmates than state psychiatric hospitals. Individuals with serious mental illnesses are predisposed to committing minor crimes due to their illnesses. Many end up detained in county jails with limited or no mental health treatment.

Responses came from 230 sheriffs' departments in 39 states that operate jail facilities or detention centers. The survey sought to understand the perspectives of county jail sheriffs, deputies and other staff who work with individuals with serious mental illnesses in county jails.

How serious is the problem? While more than a quarter of all county jails reported that 16 percent or more of their inmate population were seriously mentally ill, more large jails reported having such great numbers of these inmates. Specifically, 31 percent of large (averaging 251 or more inmates), 13 percent of medium (averaging 51-250 inmates) and only 4 percent of small (averaging 50 inmates or fewer) jails reported that 16 percent or more of their inmates were seriously mentally ill.

The survey presents the challenges faced by county jail staff, as well as the limited training they are given to address the needs of inmates with serious mental illnesses.

WHO: Moderator: Dr. Sidney Wolfe, founder and senior adviser of Public Citizen's Health Research Group
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center
Dr. Azza AbuDagga, health services researcher of Public Citizen's Health Research Group
Tom Dart, sheriff of Cooke County, Ill.
Jennifer Hoff, mother of mentally ill son
John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. EDT, Thursday, July 14

CALL-IN: 1 (800) 875-3456 verbal passcode: BRAD46735

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

(202) 588-1000