“Mentally ill inmates are swamping the state’s prisons and jails.”

That’s the headline on a recent LA Times story about one mentally ill California man who was sent to Atascadero State Hospital  instead of prison. The story points out:

“Over the last two years, Los Angeles County officials have announced a new focus on diverting people who are mentally ill from jail and prison. In July 2014, Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey told county supervisors that the jailing of mentally ill defendants was “a moral question.”

“The use of the jail as a mental health ward is inefficient, ineffective and in many cases it is inhumane,” she said.

But it is also growing.

Even as officials have announced plans to address the issue, the number of mentally ill inmates has grown in both county jails and state prisons, although overall inmate populations have shrunk. In L.A. County jails, the average population of mentally ill inmates in 2013 was 3,081. As of mid-May it was 4,139, a 34% increase.

In the state prison system, the mentally ill inmate population was 32,525 in April 2013, making up 24.5% of the overall population. As of February, according to a recently released monitoring report, the overall population had fallen by 5,230 while the mental health population had grown by 4,275, and made up 29% of the total population.”

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