, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 104-121

Jails in the United States: the phenomenon of mental illness in local correctional facilities

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During the last decade, the number of mentally ill inmates in local jails has increased while courts have imposed standards of inmate care upon jail administrators which require appropriate treatment of that inmate group. While jail administrators are seeking assistance from mental health agencies as well as additional resources to deal with these problems, little specific information is presently available about the numbers and correlates of jail inmates nationally that are mentally ill; their prior contacts with mental health agencies, criminal histories, employment backgrounds, etc; and the services jails presently offer to that population. In addition, little is known by geographic region or by jail capacity. Such information is essential in developing future strategies to manage that population. This paper is a preliminary contribution to the development of that information. In addition, the data analysis can serve as a base line against which to evaluate in the structure of the mentally ill jail inmate population as well as changes in services provided by jails by comparing this analysis to future jail surveys conducted by the Bureau of Jail Statistics (BJS) or the National Institute of Justice. The research will be a secondary analysis of the Survey of Inmates of Local Jails, 1983, conducted by BJS, (made available through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research: University of Michigan, First Edition, Fall, 1985, #8274). In general an exploratory approach was used; however, a loglinear model has been asked to further refine and explore the phenomena of the mentally ill in jails.