As California shifts supervision of thousands of newly released state prisoners to local probation agencies, ex-convicts are arriving with incomplete medical records and more serious mental illnesses than anticipated, the Los Angeles Times reports. Mental health officials are scrambling to provide appropriate and often costly treatment. “At the start, every day [ ] there was a crisis,” said Dr. Marvin Southard, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. “There was somebody we didn’t know what to do with.”
In some cases, released inmates have had to be immediately transferred to hospitals or residential centers for psychiatric care. A new state law aimed at reducing prison crowding requires that certain nonviolent convicts serve their time in county lockups rather than state prisons. It also makes counties — rather than the state parole agency — responsible for supervising such inmates after their release. Mental illness and drug addiction are common in California prisons, where more than half of inmates report a recent mental health problem and two-thirds report a drug abuse problem.