Report: Poor, Addicted and Mentally Ill Overcrowd Local Jails

A recently released report by The Vera Institute of Justice, Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America, highlights the exponential swell in local jail incarcerations and the steps some jurisdictions have taken to alleviate the resulting burdens and negative impacts. As reported in The New York Times:

Jails across the country have become vast warehouses made up primarily of people too poor to post bail or too ill with mental health or drug problems to adequately care for themselves, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The study, “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America,” found that the majority of those incarcerated in local and county jails are there for minor violations, including driving with suspended licenses, shoplifting or evading subway fares, and have been jailed for longer periods of time over the past 30 years because they are unable to pay court-imposed costs.

“It’s an important moment to take a look at our use of jails,” said Nancy Fishman, the project director of the Vera Institute’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections and an author of the report. “It’s a huge burden on taxpayers, on our communities, and we need to decide if this is how we want to spend our resources.”

The study found that the share of people in jail accused or convicted of crimes related to illegal drugs increased from 9 percent in 1983 to about 25 percent in 2013, and that they were disproportionately African-Americans.

And the study said that while 68 percent of jail inmates had a history of abusing drugs, alcohol or both, jail-based drug treatment programs had been underfunded.

The article also notes there is a high co-morbidity between mental illness and substance abuse and that four out of five inmates with a mental illness were not getting treatment.

For more information read the article in The New York Times and The Vera Institute of Justice Report Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America.