Psychological disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder and trauma-related disorders, are rampant among inmates, and mental illness itself is a risk factor for landing in jail.
“We’ve, frankly, criminalized the mentally ill, and used local jails as de facto mental health institutions,” said Alex Briscoe, the health director for Alameda County in northern California.
The statistics paint a stark picture, with mental illness affecting a greater percentage of jailed women than men:
- In state prisons, 73 percent of women and 55 of men have at least one mental health problem
- In federal prisons, 61 percent of women and 44 percent of men
- In local jails, 75 percent of women and 63 percent of men
The Affordable Care Act — and its expansion of Medicaid — is expected to connect previously uninsured ex-offenders with medical care and mental health treatment.