Incarcerating mentally ill people is expensive and solves nothing

In Dade County, 97 mostly schizophrenic people were the prime users of their mental services and justice system. It was a revolving door. Incarcerating mentally ill minor offenders is counter-productive and absurdly expensive.

“Over a five-year period, these 97 individuals were arrested almost 2,200 times and spent 27,000 days in the Miami-Dade Jail,” Leifman says. “It cost the tax payers $13 million.”

Many mentally ill people get locked up for acting out and acting crazy. Jails can’t help them. They may get brief mental health services and medications, but too often this isn’t enough. Plus, when they leave jail they may not be able to continue getting meds or help. When a bipolar goes off their meds they start acting crazy. So they get arrested again and the process continues.

Dade County is trying to provide alternative facilities for mentally ill who commit minor crimes in hopes that it will help prepare them for re-entering the community. For $13 million, they could probably build and staff a mental health facility.

Criminalizing the mentally ill because we don’t know what else to do with them is just wrong.



Crazy in America shows how people suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, and other serious psychological illnesses are regularly incarcerated because alternative care is not available. Once behind bars, they are frequently punished again for behavior that is psychotic, not criminal. A compelling and important examination of a shocking human rights abuse in our midst, Crazy in America is an indictment of a society that incarcerates its weakest and most vulnerable citizens — causing them to emerge sicker and more damaged.