It comes as no surprise for those who have any connection with or knowledge of the Cook County jail, but in a report from California states that more than 33,000 mentally ill inmates account for about 25% of the entire prison population in that state. It is well- known in Cook County that many of the approximately 10,000 inmates squeezed into the Cook County jail are represented by at least 2,500 mentally ill persons.
In California, in recent years, the number of mentally ill inmates in its prison has nearly doubled. The same may well be true in Illinois where the state has faced closings of mental health facilities and other state run hospitals that have cared for mentally ill patients in the past. State budget cuts have crippled or closed many of these mental health facilities. Those persons who are mentally ill literally have no place to go and are repeatedly picked up by the police locally, state-wide and imprisoned usually in the local county jail system.
Also adding to the prison population of the mentally ill is the fact that some states and the federal government have increased the penalties for drug use. As a result, the mentally ill who often use drugs as a way to “self-medicate”, prisons in Illinois and around the country are filling up with these patients.