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Jail Inmates and Mental Health Contact

NCJ Number
J. Olderman-Jones
Date Published
5 pages
The need for mental health services in North Carolina jails was examined using information from a sample of 1,098 jail inmates in 1988.
The analysis measured the proportion of inmates who had contact, either for personal reasons or for legal reasons, with the public mental health system. Results revealed that 18.4 percent of the inmates contacted area programs, State psychiatric hospitals, or both between fiscal years 1986 and 1988. The jail inmates who had been mental health clients tended to be white males with an average age of 32 years. They also tended to stay in jail longer, had more prior commitments to jail, and had more prior arrests during 1988 than inmates who had not been clients of the mental health system. Fifty-eight percent were diagnosed as substance abusers, 15.3 percent as both mentally ill and substance abusers, 10.8 percent as mentally ill, and approximately 16 percent as having other diagnoses. Results provided only a basic estimate of the need for mental health services in the State's jails. It is clear that many more jail inmates also need mental health services than those who are already obtaining access to those resources. The findings led to legislative recommendations, which were subsequently approved by the General Assembly, to promote the development and implementation of appropriate services. Table and figures