It is a simple fact that jails in the United States are overcrowded and people are falling through the cracks with either people being released who shouldn’t be or people that are constantly going in and out jail, people that shouldn’t be there.
University of South Carolina researcher Dana DeHart discovered this aspect of the problem when she was conducting a study looking into the backgrounds of women in jail. As DeHart noted in one case in particular she kept seeing the same woman cycling in and out of jail, a woman with mental health problems.
This was a woman that didn’t need to be in jail said DeHart but the jails are overburdened and not capable of dealing with mental illness. It’s a matter of not having enough staff or the programming to help them deal with the situation.
DeHart’s study looked at the data from 219 women that were incarcerated in both rural and urban jails and found that 55 percent of those women meet the criteria for lifetime PTSD, and that 60 percent have strong histories of drug and other substance addiction.
Additionally women who have been incarcerated show increased rates of serious mental illness when compared to women outside of jail. These illnesses include major depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and brief psychotic disorder.
“There are a lot of indications that people who are incarcerated have high rates of mental health issues, but few studies have examined the prevalence of serious mental illness among women in jails. Thus far, most studies have concentrated on prison and not jail,” said DeHart, one of the study’s co-investigators.