The Crisis of Jail Inmates with Mental Illness

Following the informed debate generated by my post about deinstitutionalization of mentally ill patients, I am passing along this short, powerful PBS segment. Some people with mental illness who used to be in state hospitals are now in independent or semi-independent housing, but others are in the worst place imaginable for them: Behind bars. This segment’s account of a psychotic inmate who is released without support onto the street and immediately harms himself and threatens public safety is as powerful as it is sadly familiar.

Watch Prisons and the Mentally Ill on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

And here’s a save the date for you if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area: We plan to debate these issues further at the Stanford Health Policy Forum on October 10 from 11:30-1:00pm on Stanford campus. Our guests will be L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, Stanford Psychiatry Department Chairman Laura Roberts and University of Chicago Professor Harold Pollack, whose piece in the Washington Post was the kicking off point for my original post. Forum events are free and open to the public; room information will be available closer to the date on the Stanford Health Policy Forum website.


  1. Ken Rhodes says

    For those of us who do not live in the Bay Area (e.g., Central Florida, a few thousand miles away), will the debate be available to us as either:

    (a) a live feed over the internet,
    (b) a recorded event on the internet, or
    (c) a text transcript on the internet, soon after completion of the live event?

    My preference is for (c). A text transcript makes it much easier to absorb the facts, opinions, and logic connecting them, at a thoughtful pace; to review cogent points from early in the forum when they are brought up by participants later in the session; and to take a potty break without missing anything important.

    • Keith Humphreys says

      Ken Rhodes: All events are recorded and posted on the internet after the forum — see the link to the Policy Forum for an archive of all prior events…we’ve been blessed with incredible guests and you may find them of interest (and of course the pause button allows potty breaks…).