The beating death of a mentally ill inmate calls for changes in oversight, training, record-keeping, and staffing at the overcrowded Camden County, N.J., jail, says a report commissioned after the January slaying of Joel Seidel. The Philadelphia Inquirer says the study written by William Waldman, a former state commissioner of human services, said problems at the jail reflected a nationwide situation: The percentage of inmates who are mentally ill is much higher than the proportion of the general population that is mentally ill. The report recommended more oversight, including the creation of an ombudsman to represent the mentally ill.
As the report was released, officials announced measures targeting overcrowding in the jail by diverting low-level offenders away from incarceration. The Camden County Correctional Facility is supposed to hold 1,269 inmates, but yesterday the population was 1,882. About 16 percent are severely mentally ill, compared with 8 percent of the general population. Jailed for violating a restraining order, Seidel was being held in the overburdened mental-health unit awaiting a competency hearing when he was beaten to death by a criminally insane inmate with a history of violence.