Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail

Supportive Housing Provides Less
Expensive More Humane Solution

Nicholas Kristof On February 8, 2014, the New York Times Sunday Review section included Nicholas Kristoff’s Op-Ed, “Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail.”

Kristoff writes that a jail in Chicago is now the largest mental health center in the United States. This is a trend across the country and “treating” mental illness through law enforcement is not effective.

This is a topic we have previously posted about.

In this one Chicago jail, 60% of prisoners self reported having a mental illness and they are often jailed due to behavior stemming from their illness.

Says Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart,

“We’ve systematically shut down all the mental health facilities, so the mentally ill have nowhere else to go. We’ve become the de facto mental health hospital.”

And while housing an mentally ill inmate in jail can cost up to $300 or $400 a day, we know that providing supportive housing – affordable housing with available support services – provides a much more cost effective and permanent option. Supportive housing helps people stabilize their lives and stop cycling through jails, prisons, hospitals and emergency shelters.

When will we stop using our jails as de facto mental health hospitals and provide appropriate mental health care for friends and family members who have a disability?

Click here for the op-ed column.