Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mentally ill inmates languish in local jails

Detention Officer Terroyanne Harris considers the inmates she oversees on 3 North as much patient as prisoner. They suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress and other mental illnesses. Some walk aimlessly around their cell block. Some are lost in hallucinations.

Most are in the Fulton County jail because they are more of a nuisance than a danger in the free world.

Taken into custody for petty crimes such as trespassing, damaging property or resisting an officer, some end up trapped in a revolving door of arrest and release. Others languish behind bars for years as they wait to be declared competent enough to stand trial.

Fulton County is not an aberration. The same is true in DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett counties, as well as some rural counties in the state.

Jails have become the new asylums. In Georgia, more mentally ill people are locked away than are treated in all the state psychiatric hospitals combined.

And it’s costing county taxpayers millions.

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