U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library


NCJ Number
American Jails Volume: 7 Issue: 1 Dated: (March-April 1993) Pages: 62-65
J Haddad
Date Published
4 pages
This article provides guidelines for jails in planning for and managing mentally ill inmates.
A recent joint report from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Public Citizen's Health Research Group indicates that jails have become surrogate mental hospitals that serve to criminalize the seriously mentally ill. This circumstance has resulted from the limited availability of community resources to treat mentally ill persons. The report also indicates that of the jails evaluated, more than one in five had no access to mental health services or staff training in mental health issues. Jails must develop an effective approach for the identification, management, and treatment of this population so as to reduce recidivism. As a first step, jails must take stronger measures to identify the seriously mentally ill at the time of intake. This can best be accomplished by assigning officers to the booking area who are trained in assessing mental illness through observation and the use of structured screening forms with simplified, nonclinical terminology. Proper training for officers in handling mentally ill inmates is vital to the success of jail mental health programs. Jail mental health programs can provide a unique opportunity to initiate some behavioral change in mentally ill inmates. Treatment should be geared toward helping inmates understand their illness and the need to take prescribed medication. Follow-up treatment to ensure continued compliance after release from jail is essential to avoid the "revolving door" syndrome.