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February 21, 2017

Interrupting the Mental Illness–Incarceration-Recidivism Cycle

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco
JAMA. 2017;317(7):695-696. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.20992

Individuals with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar, and major depressive disorders are being disproportionately relegated to US prisons and jails instead of community-based mental health clinics. They enter a system designed for criminal offenders. It is estimated that 10% to 20% of jail inmates and 25% of prison inmates have a serious mental illness; the proportion of affected jail inmates is estimated to be 3 to 6 times the rate in the general population.1 A significant percentage of these individuals are not receiving the psychiatric care they need and deserve. The lack of psychiatric beds in the United States likely contributes to this problem.2