“The number of inmates in jails and prisons nationally has been dropping for nearly a decade, mainly owing to lower crime rates. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the number of mentally ill people in many detention facilities — local jails, especially — has been soaring, forcing the institutions into the role of treatment centers, for which they are unprepared.
“A typical case, in many ways, is the Montgomery County jail. Its average daily inmate count has dropped by a third so far this decade; at the same time, the raw number needing immediate mental-health services has doubled, to more than 2,100 annually. More than a fifth of all inmates now suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression or other serious illnesses.”