The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates there are 300,000 people suffering from mental illness in state and federal prisons, compared with 70,000 in state psychiatric facilities. "Our jails and prisons are our largest mental-health facilities now," says U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican from Ohio who has co-authored bills to create federal programs to improve services for mentally ill inmates.
Time and time again, my mantra is that we have a responsibility to prevent predictable disasters. Mentally ill felons who don't receive mental health treatment are predictable disasters. But, keeping them in prison for disproportionately long sentences is not the humane, reasonable, or cost effective response.