The largest mental institution in the U.S. is actually a wing of a county jail, says National Public Radio. Known as Twin Towers, the facility houses 1,400 mentally ill patients in one of its two identical hulking structures in downtown Los Angeles. Says Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca: “Incarcerating the mentally ill is not the right thing to do.”
But if they are housed in Twin Towers, Baca is determined to make sure they are treated for illness. Dr. Arakel Davtian, a staff psychiatrist, says that about half those locked up at the Twin Towers are in for serious crimes. It takes little for the other half to end up there: “Indecent exposure, having open containers, something very, very minor – peeing on the street, disturbing the peace.” Often, the crimes these people commit are the result of their mental illness, Davtian says. Citing one case, Davtian says that although being locked up is not the ideal way to enter treatment, he was able to begin treating one inmate for schizophrenia.