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Mental Health Care in the U.S. Justice System

As funding for state psychiatric hospitals has dwindled, the number of incarcerated persons who have a mental health disorder (PMHDs) has increased dramatically, a phenomenon commonly referred to as the criminalization of the mentally ill. It is estimated that 10% to 20% of jail and prison inmates have a severe mental health disorder; however, up to 75% report having general mental health problems. Before their arrest, these individuals are more likely to be unemployed or homeless and more likely to have problems with substance abuse than inmates without mental health problems. In fact, mental health–related symptoms are related to contact with the justice system in general; the more a person appears to have mental health problems, the more likely he or she is to ...

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