The reporters quote Esteban Gonzalez, president of the American Jail Association, a lobby for jail employees: "In every city and state I have visited, the jails have become the de facto mental institutions." Of the 22 states that responded in detail to the reporters' survey, which as a whole have most of the nation's prisoners, "their mental-health patient ratios ranged from one in 10 inmates to one in two," the ratio reported in Oregon and Iowa.
Of Kentucky's 12,300 prisoners, 24 percent have a mental-health issue, according to information the reporters received from the state Department of Corrections.
The situation is a return to the times of a century or more ago, when knowledge of mental illness was rudimentary at best and the mentally ill often would up behind bars. State-run mental institutions were developed, but gave way to community-based treatment. "The weaknesses of that concept—a lack of facilities, barriers created by privacy laws and tightened local and state funding—has brought the picture full circle," the Journal reports.