The mental health care system in the United States is severely under-resourced, and America’s jails are bearing the brunt of the crisis. An estimated 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year, and nearly 1 in 25 adults—or about 10 million people—live with a serious mental illness. Yet nearly 60% of adults with a mental illness did not receive mental health treatment services in the previous year.
When persons with mental illness do not receive treatment, many end up homeless, in the criminal justice system, or both. Approximately 26% of homeless adults in shelters have a serious mental illness.
Among prison inmates, up to one quarter have severe mental illness. And these numbers measure severe mental illness only. By some estimates, half or more of local jail inmates have some form of mental illness.