This article is intense. It is also something we need to talk about, and do something about.
People with mental illnesses in jails around the country are routinely dying in horrific ways and under preventable circumstances, a Virginian-Pilot investigation has found.
The country’s 3,000-plus jails are the default treatment center for many. There is often nowhere else to take them.
They tracked 404 deaths across the US with the acknowledgement that there are probably plenty more that they couldn’t track because no one is even keeping proper records of the mental health status of prisoners. The statistics are startling. The individual stories are startling, and the absolute lack of any alternatives is shocking. If someone is in a mental health crisis, and disturbing the peace, they are arrested, and often put in isolation, away from support and medications. Not necessarily because law enforcement is trying to hurt them, but because they have no other choice but to isolate them away from the rest of the jail population. There’s no mental health treatment, there’s no place to take them for treatment, and they can’t be left to their own devices. So jail it is, which is a horrible place for someone dealing with a mental health crisis.
But, when there’s nowhere else to take them, what do you do?
This needs to change. If you’re not convinced of that, or even if you are and want to learn more, go read the whole thing.