Mental Illness in New York's Jails


The city's declining jail population is also getting older.

More than half of New York City inmates have a high concentration of mental illness, Dora B. Schriro, Commissioner of
New York City's Department of Correction, said Thursday.

The same percentage of inmates are 36 years old and older, and have been involved with the
correctional system an average of 13 times, Schriro told an audience at the Harvard Club in New York
during a discussion sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to mark the release of a
special report on the problems of mass incarceration in the United States.

“It is not the typical offender one imagines,” she added.

New figures released last month show New York's prison population has plunged to less than 100,000—
its lowest level in 24 years.

Schriro, one of the country's foremost corrections experts, was appointed to head the city's sprawling
jail complex last year. Previously, she served as a special advisor in the Department of Homeland
Security, where she prepared a report on its immigrant detention system. Her previous posts included
stints as head of the corrections systems in Arizona and Missouri, and as an assistant correction
commissioner in New York City.

According to Schriro, about a quarter of the city's inmates are between 16-24 years old, commit
the most serious crimes, and spend the most time in pre trial stays. She also touched upon the her
department's commitment to diversionary programs such as drug courts and mental courts which have
helped reduce prisoner intake, and reduce recidivism.

The report, published in the Academy's journal, Daedalus, features essays by some of the country's
most prominent criminologists. Essays range from women's imprisonment and the clearing of troubled
assets to the contradictions of juvenile crime and punishment.

Glenn Loury of Brown University and Bruce Western of Harvard University, who chaired the working
group that put together the issue, also spoke. Western, who has studied the link between social
inequality and the growth of the incarcerated population in the United States called for a “Plan B”
approach to the current system of punishment.

“We need to have a commitment to service the communities,” he said.

The informal Q&A session also covered racial inequalities in the nation's prisons and jails.

Cara Tabachnick is deputy editor of The Crime Report

Picture via capital x

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