Mentally Ill Offenders Tax Juvenile Justice System


As cash-starved states slash mental health programs for youths, they are increasingly relying on the juvenile corrections system to handle young offenders with psychiatric disorders, says the New York Times. About two-thirds of the nation's 100,000 juvenile inmates have at least one mental illness, according to surveys of youth prisons, and are more in need of therapy than punishment.

At least 32 states cut their community mental health programs by an average of 5 percent this year and plan to double those budget reductions by 2010. Juvenile prisons have been the caretaker of last resort for troubled children since the 1980s, but mental health experts say the system is in crisis, facing a soaring number of inmates reliant on multiple – and powerful – psychotropic drugs and a shortage of therapists.

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