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Mentally Ill in Pennsylvania Redirected to Jail

Mentally Ill in Pennsylvania Redirected to Jail

Pennsylvanians court-ordered into psychiatric facilities are ending up in jail instead of receiving treatment due to a lack of beds. 


Many of Pennsylvania’s mental hospitals were closed without adequate alternatives, so penitentiaries are becoming “way stations” for the mentally ill without anywhere to go (Ackerman, 2016). 


According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania, wait times for psychiatric beds of over one year have been reported, which can have dire consequences for some. The ACLU “cited the case of a Philadelphia inmate who committed suicide while behind bars, and another who was murdered while waiting for placement” (Ackerman, 2016). The organization filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2015, which resulted in a settlement in January 2016; Pennsylvania agreed to invest “more resources into the mental health system” to reduce wait times (Ackerman, 2016). 


“A jail is the single worst place you could think of to provide someone mental health services. It just simply in every way is the wrong process,” stated John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center (Ackerman, 2016). 


As of October, the  wait list was 252 people. 








Ackerman, M. (2016). Without adequate beds, Pennsylvania’s mentally ill often languish in jail. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/without-adequate-beds-pennsylvanias-mentally-ill-often-languish-jail