Thursday, April 10, 2014

Report: Texas jails and prisons warehousing thousands of mentally ill

The Treatment Advocacy Center has issued a new report titled "The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey." Here's a notable excerpt from their findings on Texas:
The North Texas State Hospital, with 692 beds, is the largest remaining state psychiatric hospital. The Harris County Jail in Houston, where “25 percent of the prisoners receive psychotropic medication” (Bellaire Examiner, May 18, 2012), has over 8,000 inmates and thus is certainly the largest “mental institution” in the state. In Bexar County, “about 21 percent of the inmates suffer from mental illness” (San Antonio Express-News, Aug. 8, 2010). In both Bell and El Paso Counties, “about 40 percent of the inmates” are being treated with psychotropic medications “or need those medicines” (Texas Tribune, Dec. 16, 2010; KWTX, July 24, 2013).

One of the most depressing aspects of the situation for prison and jail officials is to see the same people repeatedly cycling through their facilities. In Harris County, almost 600 mentally ill individuals “cycled through the jail at least five times in the past two years” (, May 22, 2013). They include Patricia George, 34 years old and diagnosed with schizophrenia; she has been charged with 31 misdemeanors and 12 felonies and has already spent nine years in jail (Houston Chronicle, July 21, 2008).

Texas is among the states with the lowest number of public psychiatric beds and among the stingiest states in per capita mental health spending. Some of the jail overcrowding is directly attributable to having no available psychiatric beds. In 2010, the Bexar County Jail had 100 jail inmates waiting to be transferred to a state hospital, and the Dallas County Jail had 103; since then, the situation has only gotten worse (San Antonio Express-News, Aug. 8, 2010).
The group's recommendations were to:
  1. Provide appropriate treatment for prison and jail inmates with serious mental illness
  2. Implement and promote jail diversion programs
  3. Promote the use of assisted outpatient treatment (AOT)
  4. Encourage cost studies
  5. Establish careful intake screening
  6. Mandate release planning
See additional coverage from MSNBC.

H/T: Sentencing Law and Policy.


"Red" Merriweather Coast said...

Or maybe don't send them to prison in the first place?

Nick said...

The "Texas Miracle" comes at a cost.

Anonymous said...

Treatment Advocacy Center has been a major proponent of forced treatment. Unfortunately this only alienates the same people they purport to help. Carving out special populations for special justice simply guarantees rights abuses (see the Houston Chronicle's recent coverage of sex offenders' civil commitments). The question no one has answered is why so many mental health clients are cycling in an out of jails. It's a strong indication that treatment isn't working. Perhaps our mental health centers need an indepth investigation to determine why their treatments are not improving people's lives enough to keep them out of jail.

Twitch - Entropy said...

Look! ...up on the's a fly on the's Sam Spade incarnate!!'s "GRITSMAN"!!! Nice work Scott.

The weird thing about the "Ghost-Writer" theory, if it truly is one,is his signature, not precluding his one-dimensional front-man big-hair role, is that it is so plain, and as a student of letter-forms all my life - that is about the most forgery-enabled John Hancock for a public personality or politician I've ever seen!