Mentally Ill in Jails, One County’s Perspective

May 15, 2015


Like many other U.S. counties, Franklin County, Ohio, has a large number of mentally ill people cycling in and out of its jails. The county wanted to learn what it could do about the problem, so the Council of State Governments Justice Center took a look. In a report published this week, the council found that the precise number of people with mental illnesses in Franklin County jails is unknown because there isn’t a system for collecting such information. But the group did determine that people who have behavioral health conditions stay in jail longer and return more often than others. Individuals with a mental illness stayed for 31 days on average, while others had an average stay of 20 days. And 60 percent of those with mental health issues were back behind bars within three years compared to 51 percent of other people. This cycling was due in part to the fact that many of those with a mental health disorder did not receive treatment after they were released, the report said. So what to do? Make it easier for individuals to access treatment, get law enforcement to help connect people to care and make that connection before people are released from jail, the report recommends. The Council hopes that other counties learn from Franklin County and “step up” to apply the recommendations to reduce their own mentally ill population in jail — the aim of its “Stepping Up” initiative. The report:

Help Us Reduce the Number of
People with Mental Illnesses in Jails