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Does Bail Reform Decarcerate Mental Illness? Public Health Challenges for a Large County Jail System

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Health Care Volume: 28 Issue: 4 Dated: 2022
Date Published

This study of bail reform concludes that those experiencing serious mental illness (SMI) require intentional efforts on the part of health, social service, and justice professionals to ensure they benefit from the reforms.


This study finds that intentional efforts involving cooperation by the health, social services, and justice sectors are needed to translate the impact of bail reform onto the population experiencing serious mental illness (SMI). Although bail reform reduces jail census, whether or not its effects extend to incarcerated individuals with mental illness is unknown. Using a novel high-sensitivity measure of SMI from jail-based electronic health records, the authors conducted an interrupted time series analysis assessing the impact of Illinois bail reform on total jail registrations and the nested subset with SMI ± co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD). Compared with a decline in total jail registrations, admission of individuals with SMI ± SUD showed no decline. Consequently, the proportion of admissions involving SMI increased between 2015 and 2019 from 26% to 35%. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2022