In Mississippi, Dozens of Mentally Ill People Are Held in Jails While Awaiting Inpatient Treatment
According to a new report, an average of 25 people are sitting in Mississippi jails each day waiting for a bed at a mental health hospital. These individuals have not been charged with any crime. Rather, they are incarcerated as part of a common nationwide practice in which mentally ill individuals, particularly in rural areas, are sent to jail in what is sometimes called a “mental health hold” while authorities wait for a hospital bed to become available. While the practice is explicitly allowed only in five states and banned in Colorado, it is still common in states without specific laws.
The report was conducted as part of increased federal oversight of Mississippi’s mental hospitals, following a Justice Department lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit, filed in 2016, alleged that the state had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act by “failing to provide adults with mental illness with necessary integrated, community-based mental health services.” In 2019, a judge for the District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi ruled against the state and required independent oversight of Mississippi’s mental health system. This most recent report is part of a biannual series of inspections to track the state’s compliance with judgment in the case.
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