At midyear 1998, an estimated 283,800 mentally ill offenders were incarcerated in the Nation’s prisons and jails. In recent surveys completed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16% of State prison inmates, 7% of Federal inmates, and 16% of those in local jails reported either a mental condition or an overnight stay in a mental hospital. About 16%, or an estimated 547,800 probationers, said they had had a mental condition or stayed overnight in a mental hospital at some point in their lifetime. About 10% of prison and jail inmates reported a mental or emotional condition; and 10% said they had stayed overnight in a mental hospital or program. Together, 16% or an estimated 283,800 inmates reported either a mental condition or an overnight stay in a mental hospital, and were identified as mentally ill. Mentally ill inmates were more likely than others to be in prison. View this PBS Special (5 segments) on the mentally ill in our criminal justice system (Links to an external site.) for an insightful look at a growing problem.
Based on the fact that there is such a large number of mentally ill offenders incarcerated in our prisons, what should we be doing to address this problem? Is it possible that early intervention could have prevented this situation?