The Evansville Courier Press has an article on inmates in the Vanderburgh County Jail who are mentally ill but cannot get a bed in a mental hospital because of cuts in funding. They reference a series in the South Bend Tribune which I missed.
In any case, this seems like a fairly simple proposition. Either we pay up front for treatment for the mentally ill or we pay for incarceration later when, due to their mental illness, they inevitably run afoul of
the law. Our jails become the mental health providers of last resort. It’s a poorly thought out system that is inhumane and, even worse from a purely fiscal perspective, inefficient.
I suspect it’s a matter of power and who pays the bills. Counties pick up the tab for the local jails. I believe the state and federal government tend to pay for mental hospitals. So, when the state and federal government hit a budget crunch, they close the hospitals and pass the problem down to the counties. The counties don’t have the choice of closing the jails, and taxpayers end up paying more or receiving fewer or lousier county services.