Addressing Mental Illness and Medical Conditions in County Jails

Source: Natalie Ortiz, National Association of Counties, NACo Why Counties Matter Paper Series, Issue 3, September 2015

From the key findings:
Protecting public safety and ensuring the health and well-being of residents are essential functions of county governments. County governments own and operate a majority of all jails in the U.S. and spend $70 billion annually on the criminal justice system. Counties balance the pursuit of justice with the strategic management of the jail population and prudent county spending on the corrections system, including for the healthcare of the jail population.
The jail population has complex healthcare needs. Better management of the inmates with mental illnesses and chronic medical conditions may assist counties with reducing the number of people in jail that require medical and mental health treatment. This approach may also reduce costs and better provide for the healthcare needs of this population. An analysis of U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data on the jail population and the results of a 2015 NACo survey of county jails finds:
A Large Share Of The Jail Population Has A Mental Illness Or Medical Condition. ….
Mental Illness Is A Common Occurrence Within The Jail Population, And It Is Often Coupled With Substance Abuse. …..
Addressing The Mental And Medical Health Needs Of The Jail Population Is A Major Challenge Confronting County Jails. …..
A Small Number Of County Jails Supervise Jail Inmates Outside Of Confinement In Mental Health Or Medical Treatment Programs. …..