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Report says 70% of inmates have mental health or substance abuse issues

Matthias Müller

70% of people in jails and prisons around the country have at least one diagnosed mental health or substance abuse problem, according to a new report from the National Center for State Courts.

The report is the culmination of a two-year investigation chaired by a panel of judges from across the U.S., including two from New York and Connecticut. The report recommends that judges and courts do a better job of diverting defendants with mental health issues toward treatment services.

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“Individuals suffering from mental illness in this country are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than they are to be hospitalized,” New York Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said.

Marks co-chaired the task force and said courts have become the costly default entry point for people with mental health issues to get treatment.

He urges judges to show leadership in getting the executive and legislative branches of government to address mental health and substance abuse problems before they threaten public safety.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.