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Medical News & Perspectives |

Criminal Justice Becomes Front Line for Mental Health Care

Bridget M. Kuehn, MSJ
JAMA. 2014;311(19):1953-1954. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.4578.
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Cook County Jail in Chicago holds the dubious distinction of being the nation’s largest inpatient mental health facility, with psychiatric illnesses affecting about one-third of the 10 000 to 12 000 inmates there on any given day.

The jail stands out because it is so large, but it is hardly unique. According to a new report from the Treatment Advocacy Center (http://bit.ly/OyvPy0), similar situations are playing out in jails and prisons across the country. The report found that 44 of 50 states and the District of Columbia now have a jail or prison that houses more individuals with severe mental illness than the largest state mental hospital. Jails and prisons in the United States hold an estimated 356 268 inmates with serious mental disorders, compared with just 35 000 individuals in state mental hospitals, the report found.

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Cook County Jail has become the nation’s largest mental health care facility and has worked to try to improve jail treatment and divert individuals with mental illness into more appropriate settings.

©iStock.com/stevegeer

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