Growing Numbers Of Mentally Ill In Jails

It's a crisis that experts admit they don't quite have all the answers for – the growing number of mentally ill inmates in our jails and prisons.

Some need medication and some need regular counseling. Others are serious enough to need supervision in so-called ''lock down'' facilities.

In LA County's massive jail system with almost 20,000 inmates, about 1 in 5 has been diagnosed with mental illness. Jails have become ''de facto'' mental institutions, says Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald.

Fox 11 spoke with the mother of one man who has been in and out of jail, rehab, drug and alcohol clinics, you name it. She was quite candid in sharing her private pain to spotlight this issue. She says that she wants her son to be someplace "safe where he can be supervised, where he will get the medications he needs to be himself again.'' His story is one of many.

To make matters even worse, most of the inmates who need treatment, don't get help. Once they've completed their latest sentence, they often are released with no place to go, still battling addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. And, they are re-arrested in LA County at the astonishing rate of 70 percent.

Mental health experts and top law enforcement officials agree that a better idea is to identify these people early on and ''divert '' them to treatment centers. But funding and space for such programs is limited. So the "revolving door"' continues.

Fox 11 Investigates "The Revolving Door."

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