A seriously mentally ill person is three times more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized, says a new study reported by USA Today. In no state was a seriously mentally ill person – someone with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, for example – less likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized, the report by the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center found.
There are wide variations among states. In North Dakota, a seriously mentally ill person was equally likely to be hospitalized as incarcerated. In Nevada and Arizona, such a person was nearly 10 times more likely to be jailed than hospitalized. Says co-author James Pavle of the Treatment Advocacy Center, based in Arlington, Va. “All they have to do is step over a line – public urination, a misdemeanor. Then they get in jail, and the whole thing can spin out of control. These people should be getting treatment, not jail time.” The report was based on previously unpublished 2004-2005 data from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.