How FL “Aslyums Of New Millennium” Treat Mentally Ill Behind Bars


In Florida, jails and prisons have replaced mental hospitals, reports the Orlando Sentinel. They are “the asylums of the new millennium,” says the Florida Supreme Court. Every year, they house more and more people like James Coleman. “I hear these voices. When I want to kill, I want to kill a lot of people because some people just need it,” said Coleman, 55, a homeless man who says he suffers from schizophrenia. “I'm angry all the time.” He is among 125,000 people with mental illness who are incarcerated in Florida jails and prisons annually, most of them for misdemeanor and low-level felonies, says a report by the state's high court.

A third of the Orange County Jail's 3,000 inmates have some form of mental illness, and 700 are on psychotropic medications. To help them, the jail has a staff of 18, including a psychiatrist, a psychologist and 12 mental health counselors, with a budget of $2.7 million and a pharmacy that dispenses 7,000 prescriptions a month. There are 140 beds for those who have moderate to severe mental illness. For those who are the most dangerous to themselves or others, there are padded cells. As the Sentinel describes them, “No bed. No sink. No toilet. Just beige rubberized walls and a drain in the middle of the floor.”

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