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NCJ Number: 222570 Find in a Library
Title: Jail as a Dumping Ground: The Incidental Incarceration of Mentally Ill Individuals
Journal: Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society  Volume:21  Issue:1  Dated:March 2008  Pages:79-89
Author(s): Gregg W. Etter Sr.; Michael L. Birzer; Judy Fields
Date Published: March 2008
Page Count: 11
Type: Research (Applied/Empirical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In addressing the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and the unintended consequence of these individuals ending up in the criminal justice system, this study examined a group of mentally ill individuals picked up as the result of a probate petition and examined the characteristics of a group of former and current inmates incarcerated in a midwestern jail and seen by mental health services.
Abstract: The findings suggest that a large number of inmates who are incarcerated in the Sedgwick County Adult Local Detention Facility and who have been seen by the facility’s mental health practitioner are in jail because they committed misdemeanor violations. Many of these misdemeanors were minor in nature, such as traffic, trespassing, and assault. It is argued that the misdemeanor crimes may be more symptomatic of their mental illness than of intentional criminality. The criminal justice system, specifically law enforcement may find it more expedient and convenient to place offenders in jail as opposed to mental health facilities. However, jails are neither prepared nor equipped to handle the complexities that go along with managing the mentally ill individuals. The mentally ill offender represents a perplexing problem for the criminal justice system. Alternatives to incarceration need to be increasingly identified in the criminal justice response to mentally ill offenders. Research shows that there are currently 288,000 mentally ill offenders in prisons and jails with 16 percent in local jails. The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill has had the unintended consequence of increasing the number of persons with mental illnesses who are incarcerated in county jails. In this study 4 objectives are accomplished: (1) the characteristics of a group of mentally ill individuals (N = 132) picked up as the result of probate petitions over a 12-month period are reported; (2) the arrest characteristics of a group of former and current inmates (N = 100) incarcerated in a large Kansas jail, Sedgwick County Adult Local Detention Facility who were seen by mental health services during their incarceration over a 6-month period are examined; (3) case studies of two mentally ill individuals who were incarcerated in the jail are presented; and (4) the implications that mentally ill individuals pose for jail operations are discussed. Table, references
Main Term(s): Mentally ill offenders
Index Term(s): Corrections effectiveness; Deinstitutionalization; Mental illness-crime relationships; Mentally ill inmates; Misdemeanor; Offender mental health services; Special needs offenders
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