Fresno County, Calif., officials have made a series of decisions about jail mental health services that have backfired, clogging the criminal justice system with inmates incompetent to stand trial and increasing violence in the jail and the community, according to an investigation by the Fresno Bee. A combination of factors, including slashed budgets and limiting expensive medications, has placed inmates and their families in danger and has increased costs for taxpayers.
About one in six jail inmates is sick enough to need antipsychotic drugs to control schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and other psychiatric conditions, but many sit for weeks in cells without medication previously prescribed by private doctors. Six years ago, the jail drastically cut back on psychiatric drugs. A county official said the intent was to curb drug abuse by inmates faking mental illness. Critics say it was part of the county's cost-cutting efforts. But as the mental condition of inmates deteriorates, taxpayers spend millions of dollars each year on the inmates.